Political involvement in health care

Health care professionals in New Brunswick are under serious strain. The aftermath of COVID-19 has left many physicians and our colleagues dealing with severe burnout and exhaustion as we try to hold together an already fractured system that has been made more vulnerable by the pandemic. With some taking deserved and earned holidays and many others recovering from COVID-19, the system has been placed under extraordinarily stressful circumstances.  

We understand you are worried, and so are we. As surgical wait times and clinical backlogs grow, and we see more frequent closures of emergency rooms and walk-in clinics, those of us on the frontlines of the health system have repeatedly asked for help. We have pointed out gaps in the system, concerning issues, and potential obstacles to optimal patient care.

Physicians have been facing challenging working conditions and low morale for years. Recent political intervention in issues of patient care and interference from other parties who lack clinical perspective have left many of us feeling frustrated, disrespected, and undervalued. Clinicians have trained for many years and possess the skills to be trusted to handle situations that arise in providing appropriate patient care. For obvious reasons, politicians and other administrators often lack a complete comprehension of all aspects of a clinical situation; therefore, inserting themselves or commenting on the clinical aspects of health care can prove not only unhelpful, but also dangerous.

There is also concern regarding the expansive media coverage of medical matters. We know the media has a duty to inform, but there are consequences of naming specific health professionals, which can include damaging the morale and integrity of those implicated. Complicating matters further is the fact that due to privacy concerns, clinicians, nurses and other allied health professionals are unable to comment on patient specific cases, which makes it very difficult to understand the entirety of patient interactions.

You may hear we are losing patience and compassion, and while that is a periodic consequence of the past few years, we want you to know we maintain a strong sense of commitment and responsibility to our communities and our patients.

Those of us in healthcare do indeed need help. New Brunswick invests the lowest per capita on public health expenditure of all Atlantic provinces. We need targeted investments directed at primary care access, emergency department wait times and surgical backlogs. We need more physicians, and we need to better recognize the value of the ones already working here. In short, we need to be given the tools to do our jobs, not advice or directives on how those jobs should be done.

Dr. Mark MacMillan 
President, New Brunswick Medical Society 

Dr. Christopher Goodyear, 
Chair of the Board, New Brunswick Medical Society