Addressing the Challenges in New Brunswick’s Healthcare System 

New Brunswick’s healthcare system has been facing numerous challenges due to years of underfunding, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients face long wait times for tests and emergency care, while hospitals experience unexpected closures and staff shortages. With one of the largest proportion of seniors and highest rates of chronic health issues in the country, New Brunswick needs a health care system that is innovative, responsible, and accessible. The New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) recommends the following priority spending.

Strong collaborative care services are crucial to ensuring New Brunswickers get the healthcare they need at the right place and time, reducing pressures on more expensive and resource-intensive acute care services. To achieve this, NBMS advocates for an evolution towards team-based care using the Patient’s Medical Home (PMH) model, a central hub for all healthcare needs. The PMH model is centered on accessible care, community adaptiveness, and interprofessional collaboration, leading to cost savings and quality care.

Another critical recommendation is to implement a comprehensive health human resource strategy. NBMS urges all levels of government to address critical shortages of health care providers and staffing challenges by developing a holistic and integrated strategy in collaboration with stakeholders. Future physicians must be identified and recruited early in their education, while retention efforts must be strengthened through unique subsidies and innovative incentives.

Furthermore, NBMS is seeking government support to relieve the administrative burden on health care workers, a red tape irritant that could be reduced through standardization of forms requiring physician signatures and redirecting forms that can be completed by health professionals other than physicians. A health data strategy is also crucial in improving the healthcare system’s efficiency. NBMS recommends modernizing health data collection, sharing, storage, and usage for population projections, while streamlining and updating the approach to privacy and access in a digital age.

Additionally, New Brunswick’s growing senior population calls for better support for seniors to age independently in their homes and communities. NBMS advocates for the adoption of legislation similar to the Quebec government’s caregiver allowance to deal with enhanced home-care expenses, an increased tax credit, and an increase in home support services.

Finally, addressing the social determinants of health, such as housing and income, is crucial in improving New Brunswick’s healthcare system. The NBMS urges the government to advocate for policies and initiatives that target deep-rooted poverty, such as programs that promote education and literacy for at-risk youth and strategic investments in affordable housing and income support programs.

The challenges facing the health care system are daunting, but with a concerted effort and commitment to change, health care stakeholders can work together to build a system that is innovative, responsible, and accessible to all.

Dr. Michèle Michaud is a family physician, palliative care physician, pain clinic physician and hospitalist at the Edmundston Regional Hospital. She is the President of the New Brunswick Medical Society.