Rural health care advocates missing the point

“There is hope, but not for us” -Kafka

Coalitions to stop the closure of hospitals, demonstrations to protest bed closures, heated rhetoric from all sides. This has been the outcome of the provincial health plan launched earlier this year. Every local community is fighting with great gusto (including court challenges) to hold on to their health care facility.

Once again, I think people are missing the point. The declining population in rural New Brunswick is necessitating the closure and downsizing of hospitals. For those defending their hospitals, how far must the population decline before it’s okay to downsize? How about when there is nobody left? Let me point out a few facts. The population of Northumberland county is lower today than it was in 1966. Madawaska county had more residents in 1956 than it does today. You have to go all the way back to the 1940s to find a time when Restigouche County had a smaller population than it does today. Seven of the province’s 15 counties suffered steep population declines from 1991 – 2001 – mostly in rural regions.

Until we have an effective strategy for economic development in this province, we will continue to see population decline and government will have no choice but to cut services. If we can revitalize the economies of these communities, then there will be no need to cut services. Oh if it were that simple.