Sussex area mayors call for change in provincial health-care leadership

Sussex area mayors have sent a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs asking for him to fire the CEOs of the province’s two health networks, as well as Health Minister Ted Flemming.

Citing a lack of confidence in the trio after the controversial health-care reform moves made earlier this year, Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne, Sussex Corner Mayor Steven Stackhouse and Norton Mayor Juliana Booth have all signed the letter.

“We’re having difficulty reconciling statements made by the minister of health and the CEOs of the regional health authorities with those that the premier’s made following the suspension of the reforms,” says Thorne.

The three mayors have been meeting weekly since Sussex Health Centre was announced as one of six hospitals in New Brunswick that would lose overnight ER service.

They’ve also met with other mayors around the province on a regular basis, who Thorne says echo their concerns with health-care leadership.

“Following a call that we had the other day,” he says, “there was a general sense that – all across the province – there’d been a loss of trust between the government and the people.”

Thorne says he personally still believes Premier Higgs to be someone he can work with.

“I do believe that the Premier is sincere in what he’s been saying.”

“He’s a citizen of this province as well,” adds Thorne, “and I know that healthcare is as important to him as it is to us.”

Premier Higgs says the province will stay the course, and keep the current roster of health-care leaders in play.

“Let’s learn from this,” says Higgs. “With the people who tried to make it happen and try to identify where were the roadblocks and then identify who goes forward with working with the communities.”

But in response Thorne says if they want to go that route “they can do so. But I think they do it at their own peril”

The same sentiments were echoed by Sussex Corner Mayor Steven Stackhouse.

“I think it’s a bad move on his part,” said Stackhouse.

“If you’re going to have consultations it has to be meaningful, it has to be with the stakeholders and if those people have no confidence in the people they’re dealing with then the consultation is worthless,” he added.

Thorne points to remarks made by Horizon Health Network CEO in a meeting in Sussex after the changes were announced.

“Specific to a question about mayors,” says Thorne, “she had indicated that she had met with – I believe she said – mayors six times to talk about reform.

“They must’ve been some other mayors other than myself.”

With the consultations coming in April or May, Stackhouse doesn’t think concerns will melt away with the snow.

“We’re not going to give up,” he says.

“The message will be loud and clear from all the people in this community.

“This will not go away and die a quiet, natural death.”

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