N.B. premier says public fears led him to cancel overnight ER closures

FREDERICTON, N.B — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says concerns and fears expressed since his government announced a plan to close emergency rooms overnight in six community hospitals led him to reverse course.

Higgs issued a statement Sunday night saying he was cancelling the closures, scheduled to take effect next month, in order to allow for community consultations.

The plan sparked a backlash after it was announced Feb. 11 — from the affected communities, health professionals, opposition parties and members of his own minority Tory government.

Speaking to reporters today, Higgs said the changes raised many questions that could not be answered, and he cannot in good conscience proceed with them.

The reforms were intended to address a shortage in human resources and an aging population, diverting resources from emergency rooms to improve mental health services and long-term care.

Last week, the Greens and Liberals said they were prepared to defeat the government on a confidence motion, but today Green Leader David Coon toned down his opposition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2020.

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