Hospital group considers legal battle against province, Horizon Health

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St. Stephen – “If you want to save your hospital, help us. We need money.”

That’s the impassioned plea from Trudy Higgins, co-chair of Concerned Citizens of Charlotte County, a group of regional residents who have been fighting against any loss or change of services – including the elimination of operating room procedures requiring general anesthetic – at the Charlotte County Hospital.

The group has launched a public appeal for funds to help hire a consultant to work with a law firm.

“We have interest from a law firm in Nova Scotia. We believe we have the facts to back up our argument that Horizon Health and the Department of Health are not looking after the needs of the people of Charlotte County,” stated Higgins. The group needs $10,000 to hire the consultant. Higgins said indications are the law firm will not charge for its services.

She said so far CCCC has commitments of $1,000 from Brian Cheney, a resident of Lake Utopia, and more than $1,000 from its committee members.

It has also received a commitment of $1,000 from the Village of McAdam, contingent on it receiving $1,000 commitments from three other communities said Higgins.

The Rural Community of Campobello will hold an emergency council meeting to decide whether to contribute money said Mayor Stephen Smart. That meeting will take place Wednesday evening.

Higgins said the committee’s goal is to manage the CCH with a local board instead of having the hospital run by the Horizon Health Network.

“We want to put together our own business plan,” said Higgins. “We have that right and I believe we would have a better run hospital.”

Higgins said Horizon Health allocates an $18 million operating budget for the CCH. “But we crunched the numbers and ours came in at around $9 million. Where’s the rest of the money going?

“People have to realize our hospital is under severe threat right now,” said Higgins noting the cutbacks to the operating room. Since August, there have been no procedures done requiring general anesthetic. She also noted staff has not been hired to replace operating room nurses who have sought other employment because of the reduction in the number of surgeries or who are considering retirement and no surgeons or anesthesiologists have been recruited.

Higgins said the move by Horizon Health and the government to turn the third floor into a clinic spells danger for the hospital’s Emergency Room.

“People will go to the clinic and won’t go to the ER. The ER numbers will drop and when that happens, the decision will be made we don’t need it open all the time and they’ll cut back the ER hours.”

Horizon Health was asked about its plans for the third floor clinic. An email response received from Jean Daigle, VP Community, stated: “We are currently exploring options and opportunities with our partners and health professionals around community services that could be offered for Charlotte County residents.”

Smart said Campobello Island residents were not happy with the news the island will be cut back from two nurse practitioners to one.  It’s primary nurse practitioner, who treated patients three days a week on the island, is earmarked to work at the new CCH clinic.

He said the indication he has received is that change leaves 250 island residents without primary care, noting there is no way the remaining nurse practitioner can pick up those patients when her practice expands from two days to three days a week.

Smart said the island has an aging population which “needs as much help here as we can” and noted “it’s challenging in the winter months” for seniors and people with young families to make the long drive through Maine to St. Stephen for medical care.

“Rural areas are not supposed to complain, but just disappear,” stated Smart.

He said he understands the province “is destroyed” when it comes to its financial situation and debt, but added “certain things should be a priority – like health and education.”

“Cuts should not be made to our core needs. Education and health care shouldn’t be under threat and health care currently is,” said Smart.

“We’re seeing a direct attack, and it’s county-wide. The region is under assault right now.  It is a pattern that’s been going on for a long time now and it’s time to put on the brakes.”