The federal Greens are calling on Ottawa to take into account New Brunswick’s “aging and rural population” when considering the province’s share of federal healthcare funding.
As preparations continue for the 2020 budget, Green MP Jenica Atwin says the governing Liberals must take into consideration the demographic challenges of the province when determining funding in the annual spending blueprint.
“[New Brunswick] needs a federal health transfer that is based on the province’s demographic realities, taking into account both our aging and rural population,” Atwin said in a statement.
“New Brunswick faces demographic challenges that must be accounted for in the federal health transfer. The federal budget about to be tabled should include this consideration.”
Atwin represents the riding of Fredericton, which covers the province’s capital city and immediate surrounding area.
Her comments come after New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government announced this week that it plans to close the emergency departments of six rural hospitals during overnight hours. The plan is to shift beds reserved for acute care to long-term care ones, mainly for seniors awaiting a nursing home bed.
As part of the changes, the affected communities will receive additional mental health services, according to the province’s health authorities.
Gilles Lanteigne, CEO of the Vitalite Health Network — the health authority for northern and southeastern New Brunswick — says the province is “coping with a severe shortage of medical professionals, an aging population and increasing mental health needs.”
“These challenges are becoming more and more visible systemwide,” Lanteigne said earlier this week, as reported by the Canadian Press.
New Brunswick Health Minister Hugh Flemming said the biggest issue facing the provincial healthcare system is a shortage of human resources.
“Our health-care system is facing serious challenges, and inaction and doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
However, Atwin warned that provincial health statistics show that 28 per cent of serious accidents and urgent mental health cases occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
People in the affected communities will now have to travel up to 75 kilometres to receive emergency care during the night, she said.
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“The federal government has a responsibility to make sure that Canadians receive comparable health care across Canada,” Atwin said, adding that the changes introduced by the provincial government will “disproportionately affect people living in rural communities.”