Update: Liberals say no decision yet on New Brunswick hospital closures February 20,2015

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the strategic program review and public consultations are still underway in an effort to identify $500 million to $600 million in savings to help balance the province’s books.
Photo: Adam Bowie/The Daily Gleaner Mobile Archive

FREDERICTON • Health Minister Victor Boudreau says no decisions have been made about possible hospital closures in the province.

Boudreau said during question period on Friday that the strategic program review and public consultations are underway to try to identify the $500 million to $600 million in savings needed to balance the province’s books.

Under questioning by Tory Opposition member Madeleine Dubé, a former health minister, Boudreau said that everything – including closing some of the province’s 24 hospitals – is on the table when it comes to cutting health-care costs.

The Liberal government also has floated the idea of converting some hospitals, or portions of hospitals, to senior care facilities to cope with the demands of the province’s aging population.
“I want to be clear on a couple of things here,” Boudreau told the house. “First of all, there have not been seniors in hospital beds only over the last four months. This is a situation that has existed in New Brunswick for years.

“It is a challenge for all New Brunswickers. We have seniors in hospital beds who should possibly be in their own homes. They should be in the community. They should be in nursing homes. There is a challenge that we need to address. We are looking at every option, but no decisions have been taken.”

Dubé wanted to know how many hospitals might be closed, but she didn’t get an answer.
She said there are options the Liberal government does not seem to be considering when it comes to improving senior care.

“There are other solutions,” she said. “Keep acute care in the hospitals and bring seniors within the community and give them the living space they need.”
John McGarry, the CEO at Horizon Health, has said that with more and more seniors becoming long-term patients in hospitals, it makes sense for the province to consider big changes in the health-care system.
McGarry said recently that the health minister’s idea of closing some hospitals and converting them to nursing homes made sense.

“I know there are going to be pockets of people and areas and communities that don’t like that idea,” he said.

“But when you have the Saint John Regional Hospital, which is the most technologically advanced hospital in the Maritimes, and 25 per cent of the beds are taken up by patients who really belong in the community in long-term care, what are you doing with your system? You’re not maximizing the potential of your system.”