N.B. Liberals believe rural ER closures remain a possibility
HALIFAX -- The possibility of emergency room closures in rural New Brunswick is once again a prominent provincial conversation. The issue was top of mind before the COVID-19 pandemic struck; after the Blaine Higgs government announced overnight closures of six emergency rooms -- a decision that was quickly reversed. However, Liberals believe closures could still happen.
In 2018, 28 patients needed to be resuscitated at six rural ERs – all in the overnight hours.
Initially, those six ERs were slated to close after a healthcare reform announcement earlier in 2020; however Premier Higgs reversed the decision. Furthermore, earlier in July, he reiterated that closures will not happen.
"I've said it a number of times, we're not going to be dealing with closing ERs," said Higgs, during a recent press appearance on July 21. "We're not going to be doing that, so no one in those communities has to worry."
However, on Wednesday, members of the Liberal party said they don't believe the premier.
"Even if he's saying that this is maybe put aside, it's only because he wants to run the election – and after that, making the decision to cut emergency rooms and/or even more," said Liberal MLA and health critic, Jean-Claude D'Amours.
The Liberals obtained documents that demonstrate the critical care given to New Brunswickers in the six emergency rooms. Additionally, the document showed that, in the first three quarters of 2019, 420 people had come into those six ER's needing care between midnight and 8 a.m.
Meanwhile, there is still concern in communities reliant on the ERs.
"For Sackville, there was still two other things: the acute care beds and the day surgery – they apparently hadn't been canceled yet," said Sackville Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken.
On Wednesday, New Brunswick's Department of Health said the pandemic has forced the province to embrace different ways to deliver healthcare. Some methods the province is using include virtual appointments, as well as moving seniors from hospitals to long-term care homes – actions helping with some of the system's strains.
Meanwhile, the Liberals say the province should meet with the six communities where the ERs are located. However, on July 21, Premier Higgs said he still intends to discuss ways to improve the system – with everyone.