A new co-ordinated network that aims to get treatment for New Brunswick trauma patients more quickly was unveiled Monday.

Doctors and provincial government ministers were at the Saint John Regional Hospital to give details about the new provincewide system, which will feature a 24-hour phone line for emergency room staff to call and co-ordinate treatment with trauma specialists.

It's one of many changes to ensure patients get proper care as quickly as possible.

Dr. Dennis Furlong, chairman of the trauma system advisory committee, said it has taken years to bring all the pieces together.

"I remind you that we're working on the motor while the motor is running — add to the system new money, new resources, adjust resources that we already have, and of course, the final common denominator — to co-ordinate," he said.

The changes were spurred by a car accident in 2005, when Donald Thomas, of Tracadie-Sheila, waited 12 hours for treatment.

After his accident in the Acadian Peninsula, Thomas was transferred to the Bathurst hospital, but doctors felt he needed more advanced care. It took hours for the trauma centre in Saint John to agree to take him, after another hospital was contacted first.

Thomas credits the team at the Saint John Regional Hospital with saving his life after he suffered multiple serious injuries in the crash, including a broken neck.

Phone line set for April

On Monday, Thomas wondered why there has been such a long delay in announcing the new system.

"I can't understand it because to set up an 800 number, it shouldn't take four years. A company, for instance, would set up an 800 number in two hours time, right?" Thomas said Monday.

Furlong, a former Progressive Conservative health minister, said the phone line will be up and running in April.

"The system can't work without the 1-800 number. It's not as simple as calling Bell and saying, 'Give us a number.' It's very complicated," he said.

"It involves tying in all of the pre-hospital care people, all of the emergency rooms with secure and confidential lines, somebody taking the calls, somebody triaging those calls."

Other changes such as more training for doctors, nurses and paramedics will take place over the next five to seven years, Furlong said.