Health Minister Ted Flemming said the minimum practice size and minimum number of daily patients were set in collaboration with the New Brunswick Medical Society. (CBC)

The Alward government has introduced a new monitoring system for salaried family doctors in an effort to improve access to primary health care.

Doctors who have space in their practice will be expected to accept patients off the new provincially-managed Patient Connection NB registry for those who do not have a family doctor, Health Minister Ted Flemming announced.

Salaried doctors are expected to have between 1,100 and 1,800 patients in their practice and to see between 18 and 33 patients per day, he said in a statement.

These "accountability benchmarks" were set in collaboration with the the New Brunswick Medical Society, doctors and the regional health authorities, said Flemming.

Under the monitoring system, known as shadow billing, doctors will be required to provide information to the regional health authorities about how many patients they see and what services they provide, said Flemming.

Medicare and the regional health authorities will review the data regularly and provide doctors with reports twice a year "so they can monitor their progress," he said.

Benchmarks have also been established for doctors working in specialty fields such as pediatrics, cardiology and psychiatry, said Flemming.

There are 105 salaried family doctors in New Brunswick.

On heels of billing dispute

The new monitoring system comes on the heels of the province's doctors declaring victory in their legal dispute with the government over billing fees.

A Court of Queen's Bench judge ruled last week that the New Brunswick Medical Society's 2009 agreement with the provincial government remains in effect and binding until 2014.

Medical society CEO Anthony Knight contends the decision means the government cannot reduce the medicare budget by $20 million and cap it for two years, as announced in March.

If the government does reduce the budget, that will eventually translate into less money than what doctors have agreed to, he said.

Justice Judy Clendening did not, however, address the medicare issue directly and the health minister believes that means the cut and cap remain in place.