Dr. Marcel Martin has served as the medical director of the New Brunswick Trauma Program for less than three years. (Radio-Canada)

The New Brunswick Trauma Program has lost its medical director.

Dr. Marcel Martin has stepped down for "personal reasons," confirmed Carol Cottrill, a spokeswoman for the Horizon Health Network.

Martin could not be reached for comment.

An interim director is expected to be appointed within the next couple of weeks, said Cottrill.

"There is no direct impact on patient care as a result of Dr. Martin’s decision," she stated in an email.

"All of the daily operations of the NB Trauma Program, including the toll-free trauma referral system for physicians, continue to operate as usual."

Martin, who is in his late 60s and originally from Montreal, has served as medical director since the fall of 2009.

He was hired after a provincial committee, headed by former health minister Dr. Dennis Furlong, spent nearly two years developing a blueprint for a comprehensive provincial trauma network.

In February 2010, when the advisory committee's report was made public, Martin said he expected it would take several years to fully develop the integrated system.

Subject to scrutiny

The program, which is centred at the Saint John Regional Hospital, the province's Level 1 trauma centre, is designed to allow for the speedy transfer of critically injured patients to the closest hospital best able to meet their needs.

The need for a provincial trauma system came to light in November 2005 when Tracadie-Sheila resident Donald Thomas was in a serious accident in northern New Brunswick. Thomas had to wait more than 12 hours before doctors could find a hospital willing to accept him.

But the program — and Martin — have both been subject to much scrutiny over the past couple of years.

In February 2010, a 62-year-old Bathurst woman who was seriously injured in a car accident waited almost 12 hours to receive emergency care in Saint John.

The emergency room physician on duty at the Bathurst Regional Hospital had called Martin. But Martin, who divided his time between Saint John and Sherbrooke, Que., where he maintained a home and also worked as a trauma surgeon, was on a plane back to Saint John so his cell phone was turned off.

That summer, the then-Opposition Progressive Conservatives were critical of the late launch of a 1-800 number for doctors seeking trauma help.

And in 2011, the medical staff organization in the Saint John region requested a one-year review of the system after several doctors had complained and raised concerns about how it was working.

Later that year, a consulting firm found there were shortcomings with Level 3 trauma care in northeastern New Brunswick.

The hiring process for the medical director's position was also contentious.

Dr. Andrew Trenholm, who had served as the medical surgical director of the trauma program for the former Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation for several years, and was the popular choice among local doctors, withdrew his name from the running.

Trenholm cited the "negativity" he experienced while dealing with the provincial government. He said the selection process had become "mired down in politics, rumours and innuendo."

Trenholm also expressed frustration that the French- language qualifications had changed midstream and that the trauma advisory committee was considering hiring two directors to co-chair the system, rather than one. The committee later announced it would proceed with just one director.