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’
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
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.