Changes to physician recruitment, primary care access announced

FREDERICTON (NB) – The President of the New Brunswick Medical Society welcomed changes designed to improve patient access to care announced today by Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

“Today’s announcement will mean shorter wait times for New Brunswickers trying to get in to see their family doctor, and fewer patients without one,” said Dr. Camille Haddad, MD. “We are equally pleased that the government is looking to improve its recruitment strategy for new doctors and we’re ready to get going on that immediately.”

Health Minister Boudreau made the announcements during Main Estimates in the Legislative Assembly.

“I would like to commend the New Brunswick Medical Society and its members for partnering with our government on these initiatives,” said Boudreau. “With these pilot projects, New Brunswickers will have greater access to primary care and family physicians.  This will help alleviate pressure on our hospital emergency rooms, after-hours clinics and, more importantly, make better use of our health care professionals.”

Doctors have long requested to be able to work together with nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals in a formal way. A new pilot project managed jointly by doctors and the government will examine the feasibility of changing the current system to one that is more patient-centred and less focused on who does what. It will enable doctors to hire nursing staff to work with them in their office and set up a formal way for them to work together.

Dr. Haddad, who helps train nurse practitioners in his office, is one of hundreds of family doctors who prefer team-based care. “Some doctors have nurses working in their offices today, but not very many, because the billing rules the province has used means we have to duplicate some of the work we do.”

Doctors and nurses working together have the potential to get more patients off the wait list for a family doctor and toward the goal of ensuring every New Brunswicker has a family doctor, he added. “We’re hopeful that this pilot project will have great results and show that doctors and nurses working together in a formal, collaborative manner can maximise patient care in a way that’s recognised by the government.”

The provincial government also announced changes that will encourage doctors to see more patients outside of their traditional daily appointment schedule. This is important to ensure more patients are able to see their doctors when they need to.

“Where I am In the Miramichi, a lot of people work all day, and would like to come visit me at night or on Saturday,” said Dr Haddad. “Not everybody has the kind of flexibility where they can tell their boss they are leaving for a few hours to take their sick child to see me.”

“And with the average workload of family doctors in the province already at 53 hours a week plus on-call, it is difficult to ask doctors to work more nights and weekends than they already do. This should help.”

Finally, he welcomes news that the government is committed to improving the physician recruitment process. “We’re keen to get cracking on this right away – we’ve talked to many residents, medical students, and recent recruits to the province and almost everyone has made suggestions for improvement,” he adds.

“We have dozens of vacancies for family doctors and specialists and we hope that a team with good recommendations can make quick progress, and send a strong message to young doctors looking around that they are wanted in New Brunswick right away.”

CONTACT: Aleisha Bosch, New Brunswick Medical Society, (506) 458-8860 Ext. 633

Founded in 1867, the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) is the professional association representing all physicians in New Brunswick. It is a provincial division of the Canadian Medical Association. Its twin goals are to represent and serve physicians, and advocate for the health of New Brunswickers. Over a hundred New Brunswick doctors sit on its Board and Committees, representing the 1600 doctors in the province.