Physician recruitment budget cuts upset Liberals

The Opposition Liberals continued to criticize the Alward government on Thursday for cutting programs aimed at recruiting doctors to New Brunswick.

Health Minister Ted Flemming says physician recruitment program being overhauled

The Alward government is trying to patch up a growing dispute with the province's doctors 2:12

The Alward government is taking the scalpel to its doctor recruitment programs and cutting or reducing a series of programs that have been used for years to convince doctors to set up in New Brunswick.

The Opposition Liberals received a copy of the list of incentives being cut and used the list to criticize the Alward government on Thursday.

Health Minister Ted Flemming said the province's physician recruitment strategy is being redesigned. (CBC)

The government is reducing bursaries for medical students who promise to set up family practices outside the three main cities as well as location grants.  

Similar, smaller incentives for doctors who set up in the three main cities are being eliminated completely.

Money for emergency room doctors is gone and grants for specialists are being cut in half.

Liberal MLA Chris Collins said the Alward government is wrong to cut physician recruitment incentives when many people across the province are looking for a doctor.

Physician recruitment cuts

  • A $50,000 location grant in exchange for a three-year commitment from family doctors setting up at least 40 kilometres outside Fredericton, Saint John or Moncton has been reduced to $20,000 for a two-year commitment.
  • A $35,000 location grant for a three-year commitment to set up in the three cities or within 40 kilometres has been eliminated.
  • A $40,000 location grant for specialists who commit to three years has been reduced to $20,000 for a two-year commitment.
  • A $20,000 business grant for family doctors getting the location grant, to help them set up their offices, has been reduced to $15,000.
  • A $25,000 grant for emergency room doctors who make a three-year commitment has been eliminated.
  • Forty $6,000 bursaries for medical students "in financial need" have been eliminated.

"There are 14,000 New Brunswickers on the orphan list without a family physician. This minister is just completely ignoring those 14,000 people today," Collins said.

Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault also criticized Health Minister Ted Flemming's handling of cuts in his department.

The Alward government froze spending in the Department of Health in its latest budget, despite additional federal health transfers and an election campaign promise to raise health funding every year by three per cent.

Even with the decision to freeze spending in the province’s largest department, the government is still projecting a $479-million deficit.

Earlier this week, the province's health minister reversed a plan to eliminate a summer placement program for first- and second-year medical students.

Ted Flemming said the provincial government’s recruitment program is being completely redesigned.

He said doctors have told his department the grants have not been the deciding factor in their decisions to set up in New Brunswick.

"There's much different things than people have than throwing some young doctor a few thousand dollars like he's some kind of a cheap bribe," Flemming said.

Flemming said the incentives date back to before there were medical school programs in the province and it's time to redesign them to cater to today's young doctors.