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Ken McGeorge, the executive director of the York Foundation in Fredericton, said the departments of Health and Social Development should be merged. (CBC)

New Brunswick needs to merge the departments of Health and Social Development and re-examine how surgical hospitals are spread around the province, according to a health expert.

Ken McGeorge, the executive director of the York Foundation in Fredericton and a former official in various Canadian health centres, wrote in an op-ed for CBC News that significant reform is needed in the province’s health system.

“The constant negativism that has engulfed health care is creating an environment in which mediocrity is too often accepted, excuses are too often accepted and professional pride and pride of performance is compromised,” he said.

The health administrator said the provincial government needs to assess how technology and health centres are spread around the province.

“It is not possible to maintain quality of service without very tight management and oversight of technology and its use,” he said.

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McGeorge writes how the provincial government needs to reassess what services are delivered at rural hospitals. (CBC)

He pointed to well-known health institutions, such as the Lahey and Mayo clinics in the United States or the IWK Health Centre or Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, and said those facilities did not become “excellent by accident.”

McGeorge said the provincial government must look at consolidating services that are now spread around the province.

“It is not wise or prudent to try to run surgical facilities scattered throughout the province. A critical mass of a minimum of four specialists are required in order to maintain quality that is competitive in today’s climate,” he said.

“If the truth were ever known, there are many cases of missed or seriously delayed diagnosis and treatment owing to inappropriate focus on proper clinical investigation.”

McGeorge said a “true rural health-care plan” would also redesign how hospitals function in smaller communities.

“In this plan, I would redefine what we call ‘hospitals,’ leaving small communities with geriatric facilities with enhanced community health centres attached; the long term care and community health centre staff would be integrated into a coherent health-care team,” he said.

“Properly done, health-care services in rural areas can be improved while removing what the public refer to as emergency departments and hospitals.”

Part of these reforms would need a new government department to push the change through the system.

McGeorge said New Brunswick should merge the departments of Health and Social Development and give it a clear focus. The departments were split more than a decade ago.

The health expert said New Brunswick is the only province where these departments are split. Further, he said an external review of the new department should be undertaken after the merger.