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New Brunswick doctors support court action in medicare fight with province

FREDERICTON - The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says the group has near unanimous support to proceed with a court challenge of a $20 million cut to medicare.

Dr. Robert Desjardins says the New Brunswick government must agree not to implement the cut before they can negotiate to find ways of saving money in the health care system.

"We want to have our signed agreement respected," Desjardins said as he left a meeting of doctors in Fredericton on Friday.

The medical society has filed a notice of application with the Court of Queen's Bench, saying the government imposed the cut and a subsequent two-year cap on medicare payments at $425 million in what amounts to a violation of a six-year agreement that expires at the end of March 2014.

The group, which represents the province's 1,600 doctors, has accused Health Minister Hugh Flemming of refusing to negotiate with them before introducing the medicare cut.

But Flemming has said the medicare cut is a separate matter from the doctors' contract and the government is willing to talk with the medical society at any time to find ways to control health care spending.

Late Friday, Flemming issued a statement saying he was disappointed by the medical society's response.

"I had great hope that we would be able to work together to preserve our province's universal, publicly funded health-care system," he said.

"My door remains open to the medical society. My negotiators are still standing by."

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