stethascope

Retired doctors can now keep their billing numbers, which allows them to continue working. (CBC)

A change by New Brunswick government will allow new physicians to be brought in, while still allowing semi-retired doctors to practice medicine in an attempt to eliminate the long waiting list for a family doctor in the province.

Previously, when family doctors retired they had to give up their billing numbers to make room for new family physicians, so few entered full retirement and held onto their billing number to receive payment through medicare. Now the province has opened up some billing numbers, allowing the retired doctors to keep working and new family physicians to set up practices.

"They can go in and do emergency shifts. They can do surgical assists. They do other types of clinics, the walk-in clinics for example," said Dr. Mike Simon, a family doctor in the Saint John neighbourhood of Millidgeville. "But they're filling big holes that the regular full-time docs obviously don't have time to do all this stuff."

Allowing retired doctors to keep their billing numbers while issuing new additional billing numbers for new doctors helps lessen the burden on the system, but he says there's no guarantee how long the government will continue to allow it to happen.

"That can be changed in a day. Obviously, it could go back to the former way they were doing it. But so far they're allowing these changes to go on."

About 60,000 people are still on the waiting list to get a family doctor, according to the New Brunswick Medical Society.

Simon says the reason so many people are still without a family doctor is that many new physicians aren't taking on the same number of patients as doctors previously did

Clarifications

  • While Dr. Mike Simon says the health department only recently started issuing new billing numbers when doctors enter semi-retirement, the health department says, in fact, that initiative has been in practice for several years.
    May 15, 2014 10:44 AM AT