In the midst of a global pandemic, women in New Brunswick are being instructed to access abortion services at the same hospitals used to treat those who are ill from COVID-19.
The directions are a result of the provincial health department’s decision to only fund abortions at two hospitals in Moncton and one in Bathurst.
The New Brunswick government has refused to pay for the procedure at Clinic 554, a private facility in Fredericton.
It was a contentious issue during the last election and ultimately resulted in the federal government reducing the Canada Health Transfer to New Brunswick by $140,216, as a result of patient charges for abortion services provided outside of hospitals in 2017.
But as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and the immense pressure it places on the health-care system, the Government of Canada agreed to temporarily reimburse the province to ensure they have all possible resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New Brunswick government maintains that they are not in violation of the Canada Health Act.
“The ball is entirely in the federal government’s court with respect to dispute resolution,” said Health Minister Ted Flemming.
But the federal government disagrees.
“As the prime minister has said, we will ensure that the New Brunswick government eliminates patient charges for abortion services outside of hospitals,” said Cole Davidson, a spokesperson for Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health.
“We will use all options available to defend a woman’s right to choose, including those that exist under the Canada Health Act.”
Dr. Adrian Edgar, a physician at Clinic 554, believes the government’s decision to force women to go to hospitals if they require an abortion is a mistake.
“The government should be swabbing every woman who has had an abortion in hospital unnecessarily to make sure that they haven’t jeopardized her and her family’s health,” Edgar told Global News.
“I really think New Brunswick is violating patient’s rights right now.”
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Edgar has been on a crusade to save his practice. He performs abortions for free to those that cannot afford the $700 to $800 fee.
“If they are an international student, a migrant worker, if they’re someone who is recently come to Canada and doesn’t have Medicare yet the hospital charges approximately $2,400 to $2,700 dollars for an abortion,” said Edgar.
He says that the province needs to fund private abortion clinics now more than ever to help limit travel and patient exposure to bacteria.
Many of his patients have filled out reports that the clinic is sending to the department of health complaining about the lack of access during the pandemic.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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