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New Brunswick doctors call for change after new report points to ‘skyrocketing’ wait times

On the heels of a new report showing that New Brunswickers have among the longest wait times in Canada for surgery, the President of the New Brunswick Medical Society is calling for a change to halt the steady rise in wait times.

“New Brunswick’s citizens, and particularly our seniors, have the longest wait times in the country for cataract removal, hip replacement, and prostate removal – we are dead last,” said Dr. Whelan.

Waiting Your Turn’s authors found that New Brunswick overall wait times are the longest they’ve ever measured; are second-worst in the country; and are four times as long as the best performing province.

“It now takes an average of six months from the date of referral for a patient to even get in to see the specialist, and then another four months to get treatment,” explained Dr John Whelan. “But it’s not difficult to see why things are the way they are – there’s a shortage of doctors.”

“Today, the government lists vacancies for a whopping 50 specialists province-wide,” said Whelan. “According to national government statistics, provincial spending on medical services has been down two years in a row. This is because we simply don’t have the specialists we need to treat patients, and these skyrocketing wait times are the result.”

“A few years ago, government stopped investing to the same degree in medical care, and saw a resulting drop in health expenditures, which was then hailed as proof of some sort of fiscal culture change in the system,” said Whelan. “Slamming the brakes on recruiting family doctors and specialists has a predictable result.”

Dr Whelan pointed to other national statistics to highlight the vicious circle of too much work for specialists as they look to recruit. “When prospective visiting doctors find out New Brunswick specialists work an average of 56 hours a week, with an average of another 30 hours a week on call, that impacts our recruitment.”

Whelan also pointed to the shortage of operating room time for specific procedures due to fiscal pressure at the Regional Health Authorities and the crunch of the province’s Alternate Level of Care problem, something he called a “crisis that impacts every level of the health system and more importantly, the lives of seniors and their caregivers.”

Whelan highlighted recent commitments to improve recruitment by the government, but said there has been little progress so far. “Solving the shortage of the doctors New Brunswick patients need and providing the resources necessary to improve patient flow through the system cannot come fast enough – we want care for seniors to be the quickest in the country, not the slowest.”

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

Founded in 1867, the New Brunswick Medical Society is the professional association representing all physicians in New Brunswick. 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 our Board and Committees, representing the 1600 doctors in the province.