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Primary caregiver benefit must be restored

The New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) is dismayed and disheartened to learn that the provincial government has eliminated the primary caregiver benefit for individuals who provide ongoing care and assistance to someone in need of support.

The primary caregiver benefit helped New Brunswickers with physical, cognitive or mental health conditions remain in their homes, something we can all recognize as critically important. As a practising emergency department physician, I see daily the impact of overcrowding in our hospitals. Any effort to keep New Brunswickers cared for in their homes means fewer individuals relying on hospitals for care that does not and should not require the resources of a hospital emergency department.

New Brunswickers who have come to depend on this benefit have said its elimination will harm their ability to continue to provide care.

The government’s rationale for the elimination of this benefit and diverting its funding to increasing wages for home support workers is that fewer than half of the roughly 9,300 social development clients eligible for the program have enrolled.

The NBMS can understand and support increasing the wages of home care workers, but this shuffling of funds from one service to another does not appear to offer a net increase in actual care offered to families who need it most.

The primary caregiver benefit program has only been active for one year, and we question how effective it might have been had it been better promoted and given more time to take root in the lives of New Brunswick families.

The NBMS implores the Department of Social Development to reconsider the elimination of the primary caregiver benefit.

Dr. Serge Melanson, CCFP-EM

President, New Brunswick Medical Society