09/14/2011 02:27 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 02:19 EST

New Brunswick government considers ending free flu shots to cut costs

FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government may stop paying for seasonal flu shots as a way to save money, but the Opposition Liberals said Wednesday it would cost more in the long run.

The province is seeking input on a proposal to eliminate free flu shots for people in certain high-risk groups.

"People with chronic illness, pregnant women, close contacts of those individuals and parents with children under the age of six," said Tracey Burkhardt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health.

The province also wants to eliminate payment for non-surgical treatment of skin lesions.

Burkhardt said delisting the two items could save the province about $1 million a year.

Every department is looking to find cost savings after the Tory government ordered them to each cut costs by two per cent.

But Liberal health critic Bill Fraser said while eliminating preventive health measures may have up-front savings, it will cost more in the end when people require treatment and hospital beds.

"I'm appalled that the minister would even look at this as an option," Fraser said. "These types of things are preventative measures for some of the most vulnerable people in New Brunswick."

According to the Department of Health, between 100 and 150 people die each year from influenza.

"Many of those are senior people and many of them are people with chronic illnesses and without this preventative measure to help address some of that we're going to see that number rise significantly," Fraser said.

The government is accepting comments on the proposed changes to the Medical Services Payment Act until Sept. 27.

Burkhardt said so far there have been no comments in support of the changes.

"There's been a great deal of concern expressed," she said.