Sackville hospital cuts an attack on rural people, says local doctor

Sackville Memorial Hospital

A family doctor in Sackville says he’s both sad and angry after today’s announcements about extensive cutbacks in patient services at the Sackville Memorial Hospital.

Allison Dysart was referring to the elimination of day surgeries and overnight emergency services along with the conversion of all of the Sackville hospital’s acute-care beds into beds for patients waiting for long-term care in nursing homes or similar facilities.

Dysart says he’s angry about the lack of consultation with local people before the Horizon Health Network and the provincial government announced sweeping changes that will mean anyone who needs these hospital services will now have to travel to Moncton to get them.

“I’m also angry because this is part of a philosophy or a set of ideas that rural people aren’t really entitled to the same access to care as non-rural people,” he says. “Rural people have to travel farther for care and they have to just accept it even though they pay the same taxes as anybody else.”

Dysart says the health care system should be reaching out to older, poorer people in rural areas who have higher medical needs, but little or no access to public transit.

“All these politicians, they pay lip service to the idea of working to help vulnerable people, but when we’re talking about rural people, it’s like, ‘Aw tough, I guess they just have to travel and if they’ve lost these services at their hospital, well, that’s the way to go.'”

Green Party ‘appalled’

Green party leader David Coon (centre) with Kevin Arseneau and Megan Mitton

A news release issued by Green Party leader David Coon points out that two of the six hospitals affected by today’s announcements are in ridings held by Green MLAs Megan Mitton and Kevin Arseneau.

In the release, Coon criticizes the Higgs’ government for its lack of consultation about the changes.

“Consultation and transparency have to be the backbone of any government,” Coon is quoted as saying.

“Instead these changes were decided without any meaningful input from the hospitals themselves, doctors, nurses, unions, front-line workers, municipalities and the communities…When it comes to your local hospital, you should be able to count on it in an emergency, day or night.”

MLA Mitton, who represents the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar, also complains in the release about the lack of consultation.

“Decisions about our healthcare and our hospital should be made with input from our communities; there seems to have been no consideration of seniors, students and those with limited access to transportation,” she says.

Sackville councillors weigh in

Councillor Allison Butcher

During the question period at Monday night’s Sackville Town Council meeting, several councillors promised to join the fight against any cuts.

“I know a little child in this area who, because of his complex medical needs, needs to be within 10 minutes of a hospital,” said Councillor Allison Butcher, “and if our hospital does not have emergency services 24 hours a day, his family can no longer live in our community.

“There are all kinds of people who have chosen Sackville or who continue to be in Sackville because of our hospital and we can’t just sit and let some other people choose these things for us, so we need to lobby, we need to fight, we need to make sure that we are standing strong to make sure that our hospital stays in its full capacity,” Butcher added.

Councillors Michael Tower, Shawn Mesheau, Bill Evans, Bruce Phinney and Joyce O’Neil also spoke against the hospital cutbacks with several saying they felt blindsided by the lack of local consultation.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said he suspects the provincial government is intent on eventually closing the Sackville hospital altogether.

“I think the ‘death by a thousand cuts approach’ that they always take, it’s just dead wrong and they have to be called on it because they’ll get to the point where they cut enough to say ‘well, it’s just not worth having it at all,'” Aiken said.

Meantime, an online petition against the closure of overnight emergency services in Sackville was nearing its goal of 7,500 signatures early Tuesday evening.

For more details on the hospital cuts from the Horizon Health Network, click here.

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4 Responses to Sackville hospital cuts an attack on rural people, says local doctor

  1. Roger Gouchie says:

    Hi, one thought I have is ambulance services, I believe we pay for an ambulance for transportation to a hospital in an emergency. With these cuts a person will have to pay for an ambulance for transport to Moncton. Sounds to me like the government wants to turn the hospital into a seniors complex. I also see bias and discrimination towards rural areas in the various acts and regulations implemented by our provincial governments. I often hear rural areas do not pay as much taxes and are not entitled to the same services and protections. Roger Gouchie – Sackville Parish – Local Services/Chairman

  2. James Hicks says:

    Just another example of malfeasance on the part of the ruling elite, who don’t have to face the hard decisions that the rest of us have to, and have no sympathy for us. The same strategies are being used in many places to force the people to all move into the cities where it is relatively easy to control and manipulate them.

  3. Merrill Fullerton says:

    Two matters related to the changes announced to the Sackville Memorial Hospital:

    1) For after hours ER and outpatients service, the people of Sackville will go to Amherst, not Moncton. This will end up costing the province of New Brunswick more as the bills from Nova Scotia stack up.

    2) There are several critical pieces of health care equipment in the Sackville Hospital that were purchased by the community’s hospital foundation through donations received from local residents and businesses. The community did not give generously to have that equipment relocated to another facility outside of our region. I smell a court action.

  4. Les Hicks says:

    Hi Bruce. Many thanks for your informative article about the provincial government’s latest attack on our health care system. After reading your article, I followed the link you provided to the Horizon Health Network’s news release regarding their decision to cut emergency services and critical care beds at rural hospitals throughout the province. Reading this release brought to mind George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’, in which he coined the term ‘double think’, which has been referred to as ‘double talk’ since the release of his book. In discussing their cutbacks on emergency services and critical care in rural hospitals, the health authorities use terms like ‘regional health authorities have announced measures to reallocate resources to enhance access to services, improve quality of care…’, ‘The changes we will be implementing are designed to improve access and ensure services are there when patients need them most…’, and ‘ the following measures are being taken to improve the sustainability of the health-care system, enhance quality of service to patients, and increase timely access to much-needed services. ‘ How exactly these policies are going to improve quality of service for rural New Brunswick residents is beyond me.

    The Federal, Provincial, and Health Authorities cite the lack of available finances as the reason for the need to reduce the quality of health care for residents in rural areas. Perhaps if the Federal and Provincial Governments would change the tax regulations which allow corporations to hide billions of taxable dollars in off-shore tax havens, they would find that they have more than enough capital to maintain excellent health care systems in which all citizens are treated fairly.

    I invite anyone who is interested to check out the article on the Press Progress website which discusses this problem 🙁

    In this article there is a reference to an organization, Canadians for Tax Fairness (, that is fighting for changes in tax policies. On their website you can find links to other organizations that are working in collaboration with CTF towards the same goal.

    An article in the Atlantic Business Magazine deals specifically with a local corporation, Irving Oil, which has hidden millions, if not billions, of dollars in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Of course you won’t read about this in local newspapers since they are all owned by, guess who, Irving Oil. You can read about their media monopoly in the following article : ‘’

    As a final point, for anyone who is concerned about this latest attack on our local hospital service (anyone who lives in the Sackville, Dorchester, Port Elgin, and surrounding areas should be), I have heard that there might be a protest planned for Thursday at 5 pm in front of either town hall or the hospital. Bruce, would you have any information on this? Thanks again for keeping Sackville residents informed about important issues in our town and surrounding areas.

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