Some are skeptical N.B. health-care shakeup will make a difference

Richard Wagner took his four-year-old to the Dr. Everett Chalmers emergency department Sunday night.

She had a high fever, and the closest emergency room, in Oromocto, N.B., was already closed for the evening.

He knew the wait would be long, but he didn’t expect her not to be triaged for over three hours.

“I mean, the fact that they don’t even know what’s wrong with us at this point or how serious we are when we walk in the door, that’s the scary part,” he said.

“We were talking about the fact that a person passed away in the waiting room five days ago — and nothing has changed.”

The family ended up leaving without seeing a doctor.

A story that’s not uncommon, and there seems to be little hope Friday’s big leadership shakeup will change much.

Premier Blaine Higgs replaced Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and Horizon Health Network CEO Dr. John Dornan, following the death of a patient last week inside the emergency waiting room at Fredericton’s Chalmers Hospital.

Higgs also revoked the elected boards of both the Horizon and Vitalité health authorities, replacing them with appointed trustees.

New Brunswickers were skeptical it will make much of a difference.

“No, I think they need clinics, they need doctors to come here to work,” said one Saint John resident Saturday.

Another person said they think the issue is money, unless there are some “new policies in store for New Brunswickers.”

Former board chair John McGarry posted on Twitter Monday afternoon, calling out Higgs on the recent moves.

“Blaine you appoint the minister, you appoint the deputy minister, you appoint the CEO, you appoint half of the board, you appoint the two health-care special advisors. Who is the problem with leading health care forward? Own it!” McGarry wrote.

Bruce Fitch is now health minister, after being sworn in Friday.

“Bruce Fitch has probably the most difficult job in politics, in New Brunswick, over the next couple of years,” said St. Thomas University political science and public policy expert Jamie Gillies.

“When you make a series of decisions like this — from firing the health minister to firing the CEO of one of the health authorities — you break this thing, you bought it. So now solving the healthcare problem is on the Premier.”

On Monday afternoon, the estimated wait time at Horizon Health’s hospital emergency departments ranged from 30 minutes to almost five hours, for urgent cases.

“This is probably something politically that Higgs felt that he needed to do but I don’t think the public is going to give him an ounce of credit until they see positive results in the healthcare system,” Gillies said.


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