The New Brunswick government has announced that it will create 25 new family doctor positions in the province over the next year, despite having the same number of current vacancies for family physicians in the province.
The province expects the additional positions will mean 20,000 New Brunswickers who do not presently have a family doctor could have access to one once these positions are filled.
That figure is based on what is considered a "reasonable amount" of patients for a new doctor starting a practice, said Department of Health spokesman Paul Bradley.
The positions are "over and above" the current complement of family physicians, Bradley said.
They are expected to cost the province $15 million to fill.
The province has not determined where the positions will be located, but the distribution will be based on current vacancies, data from the Patient Connect waitlist on where the greatest need is, and "priorities" identified by the regional health authorities, according to a press release issued by the Department of Health.
Anthony Knight, chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said there are currently between 25 and 30 vacancies for family physicians in New Brunswick, and about as many for specialists.
While efforts need to be made to recruit and retain physicians, he said creating more positions signals that New Brunswick is "open for business" to doctors here and in other provinces.
"There's a greater flexibility in the number of positions, and where they could be located," he said.
"There's a very high likelihood of finding a position now."
Asked why the province was creating new doctor positions when there are still vacancies, Premier Brian Gallant said that by adding more positions, the province will be able to address "a lot of the issues" around access to family doctors.
"We're going to be able ensure we look at the data, we look at the wait times that are the longest and we address that by adding more family doctors," he said.
"And we're going to do everything we can to make sure we recruit more doctors in general."