New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna says the takeover of local hospital boards is a way the province can save money. Many New Brunswickers feel it is a way the province can grab power.
Under the Liberal government’s new Hospital Act, the local boards of the province’s 51 hospitals are to be replaced by 8 “region boards.” The region boards are not obliged to answer to those who own and operate the hospitals themselves.
In effect, these boards are bound to undermine the religious character in the seven of New Brunswick’s Catholic hospitals. Their traditional views on abortion, in-vitro fertilization, sterilization and care for the incurable will be jeopardized.
This threat has led to protests from Catholics. “The government has expropriated the property of the Church. It’s a first in Canada,” said Lorraine Mills of the New Brunswick Catholic Health Association.
Gervais criticizes legislation
Bishop Edward troy, of St. John NB, has stated that the local Catholic boards are the “guarantors and trustees” who ensure that the hospitals retain their Catholic values. In a letter to the Premier, troy said that the province’s move “denies the rights of the Catholic hospital to preserve and promote its catholic character and philosophy.”
Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais agrees. The head of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops echoed Bishop Troy’s sentiments in an open letter to the senior bishop in New Brunswick, Archbishop Donat Chiasson. Gervais criticizes the legislation on a number of points, most notably its outright removal of any legal moral presence within the Catholic operated hospitals.
He goes on to condemn the government for not recognizing the past service and dedication shown by the Religious who created health care in New Brunswick, and expresses the fear that this legislation might set a precedent for similar hospital takeovers elsewhere.
This outcry prompted a meeting on May 7, 1992, between premier McKenna and Health Minister Russell King on the one hand and Bishop Troy, Archbishop Chiasson and Sisters Betty Hurley and Sarah Maillet – representing the Religious who run the hospitals – on the other.
The premier came out of this meeting promising that he would amend the act to allow the Catholic hospitals to retain their religious character.
However, many are unsure of the reliability of the premier’s promise. “We do not know the people who will be entrusted with the task of administering…nor do we know how they will interpret and exercise their responsibilities,” said a skeptical Bishop Troy.
Other recent moves by the McKenna government indicate the leader’s commitment to secular, not Christian standards. The ruling Liberals, who have no strong opposition in Parliament, have rammed through legislation that allows Sunday shopping. They have also extended protection to the homosexual lifestyle by placing it in the New Brunswick Human Rights Act.