FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Premier Blaine Higgs regarding changes to the previously announced overnight emergency department closures:

Over the course of the past week, we have experienced a multitude of reactions and genuine concerns to the regional health authorities’ reform plan.

Most New Brunswickers understand and agree that we have a crisis in health care in this province, however we do not have clarity about what is required to address it.

I am concerned by the number of gaps in the health system that have been identified as the days have rolled on. The current state is not acceptable. I believed that before; I believe it even more today. New Brunswickers deserve better.

I recognize that people in rural New Brunswick face unique challenges and come to the table with a unique perspective. With that in mind the regional health authorities have agreed not to proceed with the implementation date of March 11 for the reform plans. This means they will not proceed with the reduction of hours in emergency departments in Sussex, Sackville, Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, Caraquet, Grand Falls and Perth-Andover.

I cannot in good conscience move forward without addressing the concerns and fears that have been brought to light.

That is why I will personally visit these communities to initiate the process to ensure that we hear from community leaders, the people delivering care and concerned citizens.

We will conduct these meetings in April and May.

Our government will also hold a health-care summit in June with the goal of developing a strategy to ensure a sustainable and reliable public health-care system for the future.  This must also address the challenges faced in rural communities. We will release findings from the community meetings and the summit in the fall.

I have said time and time again that we are on a mission to save New Brunswick, and that includes tackling the crisis in health care. An aging demographic coupled with a growing labour force shortage is hampering our ability to provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

But we need people in this province to be part of the solution and that must start with hearing from the people most impacted.