Vitalité reps discuss hospital bed cuts with Restigouche mayors

(As published in English at CBC.ca, January 18, 2016)

Closed-door meeting about 25 proposed bed cuts being held at Campbellton Civic Centre

CBC News Posted: Jan 18, 2016 2:22 PM AT Last Updated: Jan 18, 2016 5:28 PM AT

20 01 2016 01
The Vitalité Health Network has recommended 99 hospital beds be closed throughout the network, including 25 in Restigouche. (CBC News)

Vitalité Health Network officials met with Restigouche-area politicians and doctors behind closed doors in Campbellton on Monday to explain the 25 hospital bed cuts they've recommended to the provincial government.

Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh came out of the meeting sounding hopeful.

"What we're looking at is more discussion on why it went from 12 [bed cuts] to 25 and how are we going to be able to operate without losing any additional services that we now have at the regional hospital," he told CBC News.

​In the fall, Vitalité's chief executive officer Gilles Lanteigne confirmed 99 bed cuts across the network were part of a plan submitted to the province's health minister to help save an estimated $10 million annually, including 12 beds in Restigouche, 20 in the Beauséjour zone, 26 in the Northwest and 41 in Acadie-Bathurst.

But Vitalité subsequently said 25 hospital beds should be eliminated in Restigouche, with the overall proposed bed closures throughout the network remaining at 99.

Monday's meeting at the Campbellton Civic Centre was the first time health network officials, politicians, and doctors gathered to discuss the controversial proposal.

Donald Arseneault, the minister responsible for the Madawaska-Restigouche region and the MLA for Campbellton-Dalhousie, joined MacIntosh and the mayors from Atholville, Balmoral, Kedgwick, Charlo, Dalhousie and Tide Head.

20 01 2016 02"We wanted, I wanted to get all around the table so we could hear when Vitalité are proposing initiatives, or cuts, or whatnot, that we could really get it firsthand from the doctors … if what they're saying has an impact," Arseneault said.

The interested parties will have to wait until the provincial budget is released to learn how the cuts will affect health care in the region. The budget is expected on Feb. 2.

The group has planned another meeting for soon afterward, said Arseneault.

Nearly 24 per cent of hospital beds across the region are occupied by seniors waiting to be placed in nursing homes, Vitalité officials have said.

Part of the proposed plan is to utilize outside services rather than have seniors wait in hospital.

The plan also includes measures to maximize extramural services across the health network, in an effort to offer alternatives to hospital stays.