We are all keenly aware of the precarious state of New Brunswick’s health care system. The province has been struggling for years with a growing demand for health services and often overburdened hospitals. Insufficient nursing home capacity continues to result in many seniors having to spend months in a hospital bed, waiting for a more appropriate care setting. At the same time, we know that building more nursing homes will not fully address the issue of senior care.
With a rapidly aging population and sustained fiscal and operational pressures, we know that the current status quo is unsustainable. Experts will agree that more attention and resources need to be invested in primary health care and front-line services. If our aim is to find innovative ways of delivering better care to aging New Brunswickers, then we cannot be timid about trying new approaches while closely monitoring if these make a difference.
Doctors are faced with the challenge of providing quality care to seniors on a daily basis. They have been looking for an improved way in which to provide these services. We see government’s efforts to better integrate the services offered by the Extra-Mural Program, Ambulance New Brunswick and Tele-Care 811 as a concrete attempt at a solution. The goals and principles associated with the primary care integration initiative gives us hope for better overall senior care in the province.
New Brunswickers are very attached to the Extra-Mural Program and they should be. Extra-Mural is a flagship program delivering high-quality home health services and should be protected. It is important, however, to not lose sight of government’s main objectives for this project which are to enhance collaboration and coordination between programs, increase home-based care and reduce emergency department visits. If anything, the provincial government seems to want to build upon the success of Extra-Mural, not take anything away from it.
It will be important for the Department of Health and Medavie Health Services to demonstrate the highest level of transparency and accountability as this initiative moves forward. It will also be essential for doctors and nurses, as well as the Regional Health Authorities, to play a direct role in the success of the initiative. Stakeholder groups, for their part, should closely monitor progress on the goals and deliverables and alert government and the public if the initiative does not stay on course.
Given the multiple challenges that New Brunswick is facing, we firmly believe that not trying is not an option.
Dr. Dharm Singh, MD, FACS
President, New Brunswick Medical Society