Sackville councillors overrule rookie mayor; endorse leadership role in hospital fight

Councillor Sabine Dietz pushed for council leadership on ER closings

Sackville Town Council is getting involved in the fight to maintain 24-hour emergency services at the town’s hospital.

After a 49-minute debate last night at town hall, councillors voted to appoint Mayor Shawn Mesheau and one councillor to participate in the eight-member working group that has been trying to persuade the province to enhance the hospital’s services.

The working group, including former mayors John Higham, Pat Estabrooks and former Acting Mayor Ron Aiken, is now fighting against the weekend evening and overnight closing of the hospital emergency room (ER) at least until September.

“I very, very strongly believe that we as council have a gigantic role to play here and we need to take it by the horns,” Councillor Sabine Dietz said.

She argued that town council should play a prominent role in defending the hospital’s services.

“We need to play a leadership role in this, not just a participating role and that’s really my point,” Dietz said.

Mayor urges caution

Dietz was responding to suggestions from Mesheau that town council support the working group, but not make it a formal municipal committee or get directly involved in its plan to organize a public rally.

“I had somebody the other day approach me at work and felt that it was up to council to organize a protest,” Mesheau said.

“That’s not a municipality’s role to organize protests. The municipality needs to be working with all levels of government,” he added.

“We may not agree with government, but a municipality needs to build on those relationships.”

Mayor Shawn Mesheau urged caution

The mayor noted that he’ll be meeting this Thursday with provincial health minister Dorothy Shephard and local government minister Daniel Allain to discuss the summer ER closings.

So far, both Shephard and Horizon Health officials have said that closing the Sackville ER from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will end when three additional nurses are hired, possibly by September, but that will depend on successful recruitment efforts.

CAO Jamie Burke said he shared Mesheau’s  concerns about direct town involvement.

“We’re not in the health-care business,” he said. “We pave roads, we build parks, we provide services to people’s property; the provincial government is responsible for providing health-care services.”

Burke acknowledged that maintaining hospital services is crucial for attracting new residents, for retaining those already here and for recruiting Mount Allison students, but said his preference would be to let the high-powered, community working group lead the campaign against ER cuts.

“They’re very successful,” he said. “They mobilize quickly, they’re not government, so they’re able to be more agile and quick on their feet [and] they’ve got a powerhouse of representatives sitting around the table to strategize about how best to move this.”

Council sides with Dietz

Councillor Michael Tower seconded Dietz’s motion directing the mayor and one unspecified councillor to participate in the community-led working group.

“I think it is our job to show leadership,” he said.

Councillor Michael Tower

“I think it’s our job to get involved. We have the podium we can use to talk to either Higgs or anybody up there because the operation and health of this town is still part of our mandate and I think we have to find ways to make that work,” Tower added.

“The bottom line is we need more control here locally and so we have to find a way to take action to get the government to wake up, talk to us and work with us and that way we’d get back to what Higgs wanted, a collaboration with all the municipalities and make this health care work.”

Despite the mayor’s and CAO’s calls for caution, council approved this motion unanimously:

Moved by Councillor Sabine Dietz and seconded by Councillor Michael Tower that in light of current threats to our hospital and the current summer closures to the Emergency Room Department, we direct mayor and one (1) councillor to take part in the health committee and regularly report back to council, working towards ensuring our hospital remains at full services.

After the vote, Councillor Dietz laughed as she apologized for prolonging the new council’s very first session.

“That’s OK,” Mayor Mesheau replied.

“The Chair is really enjoying this because, first out of the gate and wow,” he said.

“But that’s good, discussion is good.”

To see who is currently serving on the eight-member, health-care working group, click here.

For a report on the origins of the community working group in February, 2020, click here.

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3 Responses to Sackville councillors overrule rookie mayor; endorse leadership role in hospital fight

  1. Christine Hicks says:

    it just goes to show the Town that voted for no Change! Got the Council that doesn’t want to fight for what we already have or fight for anything new being brought in to the Town!

  2. Les Hicks says:

    Kudos to councillors Dietz, Tower, and the rest of council for approving the motion that the town government get directly involved in fighting against the provincial government’s cuts to our hospital service despite the objections of Mayor Mesheau and CAO Burke. Should the town government not be involved in something that is so critical to the future of our town and the quality of life of it’s residents? Mayor Mesheau commented that “That’s not a municipality’s role to organize protests. The municipality needs to be working with all levels of government”. We all saw how well that cooperation between all levels of government worked when the municipal government of Sackville, the provincial government, and federal government all failed in their duty to protect the interest of taxpayers during the contaminated soil fiasco by ignoring the provincial government’s officially stated “polluter pays” position by letting the municipal, provincial, and federal taxpayers pay for the environmental mess that was created by the multinational corporation CN.

  3. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    If you have to fight with government for decent healthcare maybe you’re barking up the wrong tree.
    #Defund Centralized Health Authorities!

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