Still from the emergency entrance for the Horizon Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

As the provincial government introduces legislation that would see more of New Brunswick’s health-care services become privatized, members of the New Brunswick Health Coalition are becoming increasingly worried.

The bill, introduced by Higgs’ government on Oct. 26, would pave the way for certain surgeries like hip and knee replacements to be performed at private clinics, instead of hospitals, and be covered under Medicare.

Bernadette Landry, the co-chair of the New Brunswick Health Coalition, said privatization would open the door to larger corporations that could influence government decisions. 

“We’re quite worried about that … creating silos in the health system is the opposite of what we want,” she said.

“We want a seamless system where health professionals know what the patient’s history is and they can take into account everything that the patient went through as they intervene on that person.”

Landry said one of her concerns lies with private companies hiring health-care professionals from the public sector and offering them better salaries or working conditions. While those offers are attractive, she said it weakens an already fragile system.

Another concern of Landry’s revolves around the loss of control in health-care services as the province gives more responsibility to private companies, forcing the provincial government to rely on the private sector. 

“When a company takes over a service, you will lose control over what’s going on in that service,” said Landry. “Companies are there to make profits … their first objective is not to serve the people.”

In an August news release, the Government of New Brunswick said the province’s health-care system has struggled as a result of skills shortages and a lack of funding from the federal government.

Landry said the push to privatize areas of health care is not a solution, calling the province’s reasoning “just an excuse.” 

Bruce Fitch, New Brunswick’s minister of health, was not available for an interview.

Adam Bowie, a communications officer with New Brunswick’s department of health, said in an email to The Aquinian that the province is always seeking “new and creative ways to improve access to important health-care services.”

“Recently, it partnered with a clinic in Bathurst to complete cataract surgeries outside a hospital setting – a move that will also free up operating room time at the Chaleur Regional Hospital for other procedures,” wrote Bowie.

Bowie said other examples exist within the New Brunswick health-care system, such as the regional health authorities previously contracting with a pharmacy to prepare chemotherapy drugs.

“These projects are simply meant to support and enhance the public health-care system,” he said.

Landry said she feels things are getting worse and it’s hard to pinpoint where New Brunswick health care is heading, but said that “it needs to stop.” She called on residents to put pressure on the government and politicians that New Brunswick needs a strong public health-care system.

“Every dollar spent in private care is a dollar less to support public health care and it really needs some investment,” she said.

With files from Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri