Physicians disappointed with provincial health-care budget

New Brunswick physicians are concerned with the effective year over year freeze of health-care spending reflected in today’s provincial budget announcement.

While we appreciate that the elimination of expenses such as travel nurses may allow for certain additional investments, this budget is far from the commitment to health system transformation that health-care professionals were hoping to see. In particular, the absence of any significant retention initiatives is surprising, given the health human resource challenges we are facing.

We are pleased to have several pressing issues recognized in this budget, including a $22.9M investment in clinical information systems. Although more than 20 years overdue, any improvements to the province’s health technology infrastructure are welcome.

Also, after advocating for years alongside partner organizations for stricter legislation on vaping, we are happy to see this issue recognized through funding of a public health measure increasing the taxation of these products.

It is also encouraging to see funding allocated to primary care. While significantly less than what is needed to adequately address primary care access in the province, $20M is a step in the right direction. It is somewhat concerning, however, that no parameters or benchmarks have been indicated to guide these investments. Hopefully government will take a collaborative approach with stakeholders in determining how best to allocate these funds.

Investments targeted at defraying inflation are also disappointingly low. While it represents a significant portion of the budget, the $70M for Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) is barely sufficient to maintain the status quo, and anyone who has visited a hospital in recent years knows the status quo is not an acceptable goal. The NBMS is concerned that RHAs will be put in a position to rely on finding efficiencies and cutting costs in order to maintain service levels. This has been the approach for many years now, and the strategy is clearly not yielding acceptable results.

The NBMS looks forward to continuing to work with government and other stakeholders to identify additional funding priorities and help focus these investments to make the biggest difference for New Brunswick patients.