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Nova Scotia premier takes swipe at opposition plans to cut health boards

HALIFAX - Plans by Nova Scotia's opposition parties to cut the number of health districts won't save money and will transfer more work to health staff, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

Dexter said the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives would be "naive and ill-informed" if they think reducing the number of health districts would trim health costs.

He said millions would be spent on severance pay to executives alone and more duties would fall to frontline health workers if Nova Scotia's 10 health districts were merged.

"It's going to mean that less money goes into patient care and they are going to cause labour disruptions right across the province," said Dexter. "This is a very bad idea."

Nova Scotia has nine district health authorities and a board for the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Dexter said while the health authorities aren't perfect, his government has taken measures to reduce administrative costs. He said such costs ate up 6.7 per cent of the overall health care budget in 2011-2012, a figure that dropped to 5.3 per cent the following year.

Liberal Opposition Leader Stephen McNeil said his party stands by its promise to cut the number of health boards to two.

"The premier wants to spend money on administration and we want to spend it on services for Nova Scotians," McNeil said.

He said the move would save about $10 million that could go to hiring more nurses and other health professionals.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he would announce a plan soon to cut the number of boards, although he wouldn't say how many he would eliminate.

"I personally believe that rural health care is different than city health care and we need a structure of health authorities that reflects that," said Baillie.

Dexter raised the issue earlier in the day while giving a speech to the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union in Truro.

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