More firings at top of New Brunswick health care

A memo obtained by CBC News names several high-ranking members of the province's health-care service who have either been sacked or demoted. (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A memo obtained by CBC News names several high-ranking members of the province's health-care service who have either been sacked or demoted. (CBC/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Higgs government's wave of firings in the health-care system continued on Friday, with three senior officials fired from the Department of Health and a fourth demoted.

A memo obtained by CBC News says Tracey Burkhardt, the executive director of the planning, alignment and engagement division, and Jeff McCarthy, the executive director of innovation and eHealth Services, had "left the Department."

Ellen Delange, a senior policy adviser, was also gone, according to the memo by deputy minister Eric Beaulieu.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Elliot, the assistant deputy minister for public health and integrated community care since August 2021, was demoted to executive director of public health, a less senior role.

In the memo, Beaulieu said that "a revised organizational structure" was being finalized for the department and would be presented to staff Aug. 22.

He said the new structure and approach "are meant to focus energies on initiatives that will bring the most benefits to citizens, staff and the system as a whole."

Previous sweeping changes

The changes come four weeks after Premier Blaine Higgs replaced his health minister, fired the CEO of Horizon Health and replaced the Horizon and Vitalité health authority boards with trustees.

In a series of tweets Friday that did not mention the latest firings, Higgs said the "changes to the governance model" of the two health authorities — which he described last month as temporary — will allow reforms to speed up.

That would allow ideas from frontline staff to "rise quickly to the level of strategic decision making," so they can be piloted and implemented.

Pat Richard/CBC
Pat Richard/CBC

"Unleashing the wisdom of these professionals is key to driving the change we need," he wrote.

Earlier this week, Fredericton emergency department doctor Yogi Sehgal said he sent Higgs a 10-page report on problems in the province's hospitals and possible solutions.

He said in an interview he hadn't seen any improvements since the premier's first round of firings and changes on July 15.

On Thursday, the New Brunswick Medical Society issued a statement saying many doctors are facing "severe burnout and exhaustion" and the system needs more doctors, and more spending on health care.

But in his Twitter thread Friday, Higgs said said his government had already "funded the change we need" with a $168.5 million increase to the health budget this year, the largest since 2008-09.

In a statement later in the day, the premier said investment in health is "clearly needed and we're doing just that, but the investment needs to be in services that serve (provide care to) New Brunswickers in a positive way, not services that don't produce the right outcomes."

He thanked doctors for their suggestions, saying "they know better than anyone that the system needs to change. As premier, I have committed to making those changes happen."

He also said doctors practise mainly in silos and that needs to change because it gets in the way of an efficient system.