The New Brunswick Medical Society is issuing its own prescription for fixing the province’s ailing health system and it calls for an infusion of cash to pay for new nursing homes, better access to primary care and more doctors.
Dr. Lynn Hansen, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said in an op-ed for CBC News the investments would amount to two per cent of the Department of Health’s $2.5 billion budget.
“Our health-care system is ailing and while we need an eye to policy changes that would help us in the future, we need to do so with a focus on patient problems of the here and now,” Hansen said.
The medical society’s comments come after other New Brunswick experts have also weighed in on the province’s obesity crisis, the erosion of public confidence in the health system and how tough questions need to be asked about health reform.
While other experts have pointed to the fact that New Brunswick has more doctors per capita than the national average or have recommended putting more emphasis on preventative care than simply paying for more doctors and hospitals, the medical society offered a different view.
Hansen said her organization’s call for more doctors is not about limiting the inclusion of other health professionals in the system.
“Our call for family doctors isn’t a call against any other health professional — it’s a call to re-orient our health system back toward patients who have 21st century illnesses that are best managed through primary care and patient education,” she said.
“We need more doctors, nurses and other providers working together in teams to care for patients more effectively.”
Health care has been a focus of the various political parties in the early days of the 2014 election campaign.
The Liberals have already committed to hiring more family doctors. Liberal Leader Brian Gallant promised earlier in the campaign that every New Brunswicker would have a family doctor by 2018 if his party is elected. Gallant said the promise would cost $12.5 million.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy has also promised to increase medical residencies by 20 per cent in an effort to add more family doctors to the system. The party estimates the promise would cost $1.3 million a year.
More nursing homes needed
The medical society admitted its call for more nursing homes to be built in the province has not been embraced by some. Hansen said many seniors want to stay in their homes and that has come with a call for a better home-care system.
But Hansen said the province cannot ignore the need for more nursing homes to care for seniors and also remove seniors from hospitals, who don’t need to be there.
“While more effort can and should be made to improve home care, we can’t avoid building nursing homes,” she said.
“They are a necessary element of the system and though they are expensive, our increasing elderly population and the prevalence of chronic conditions and dementia make them necessities.”
This was a point raised by Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, who said that too many tax dollars are being spent on keeping patients in hospitals when they could be better served elsewhere.
“Right now, acute care beds are occupied by people who really need to be in a nursing home at a fraction of the cost. In addition, people need to be able to have good access to primary care in the first instance and largely avoid hospitals and emergency rooms,” Bateman wrote.