Today's Provincial Budget cut medical services, or Medicare, by $20 million in the coming fiscal year. It is then capped at that level for the next two years. Cabinet approved this cut while still at the negotiating table with doctors. We are also disappointed in the 0% increase to the Health budget, which breaks a previous promise to raise it by 3% annually. This jeopardises further promises to reform primary health care and prescription drug coverage.
The cap on medical services is different than a wage freeze for doctors, which doctors have already agreed to as part of a six-year agreement with the Province which began in 2008. Capping Medicare means that the Province is limiting access to medical services in the sickest province in the country. It also means that new doctors graduating this year in New Brunswick will look elsewhere to practice, at a time when thousands of New Brunswickers have no family doctor, or wait for surgery.
Doctors want to work with the Alward Government on sustainable health care and have dozens of ideas. We want to change the system to make it sustainable in the long-term, which was the theme of our Health Plan Submission over six months ago. Short-term, short-sighted cuts that reduce access to care are not in patients' best interests.
Robert Desjardins, MD FRCPC
President, New Brunswick Medical Society