New Brunswick

Dr. Pam Mansfield unimpressed by government response to doctors

One of the doctors from the Horizon Health Network who signed a letter to the province pleading for action on hospital congestion is not impressed with the response by Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

Horizon doctors say government inaction is leading to inhumane treatment of patients

One of the doctors from the Horizon Health Network who signed a letter to the province pleading for action on hospital congestion is not impressed with the government's response.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the lack of beds and overcrowding in hospitals will take time to resolve, is expensive to fix and will need more study.

Dr. Pam Mansfield is president of the medical staff at Moncton Hospital. (CBC)
Dr. Pam Mansfield, president of the medical staff at the Moncton Hospital, says that attitude is leading to inhumane treatment and seniors dying without dignity.

"Well, unfortunately we end up having patients who are admitted for days in the emergency room on a stretcher. We've had patients who are in their end of life stage there's no bed for them, there's no bed in the palliative care unit, there's no bed in the hospital for them. They die in our emergency room." she says.

Mansfield says the doctors have decided to speak out to help their patients and families from having to put up with substandard conditions.

"It was very sad one day when I'm trying to talk and counsel with a patient who is dying and their family and all there is, is a thin curtain separating that patient from the next patient in the room next to them who is getting 

chemotherapy for their cancer and I can't imagine what those patients and families are going through," she said.

"You know, one listening to someone die and the other one and family trying to spend that private last few hours with their family, but there is no privacy for that."

Speaking to reporters at the legislature on Tuesday, Victor Boudreau said he welcomed the doctors' concerns and the province is working on short, medium and long-term solutions.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says it will take study, time and money to ease hospital congestion. (CBC)
"We are looking at all that from home care, to special care homes, to nursing homes to hospitals to palliative care," he said. "The whole spectrum we need to look at it to make sure there's the proper connectivity — that's proper flow of care for New Brunswickers as they age."

However, Boudreau says the solutions will cost millions every year and the province is looking at how it can pay for them.

"Obviously those recommendations add up to millions of dollars on an annual basis. While there may be some good suggestions there, how we're going to pay for it and how we're going to assure that continum of care throughout the journey of a senior is what we're working on." he says.

Boudreau says keeping seniors in their homes is a priority but it will take some time.

"Because it's not a situation that corrects itself overnight," he said. "We have an aging population. We have the second oldest population in Canada and it's going to take time.

"It takes approximately 18 months to build a nursing home so if that's part of the solution obviously it's going to take some time."

Mansfield says the minister's response is disappointing.

"And it really is quite dismal seeing how our patients are living and it could be for the last months of their lives and even for patients who come in with acute care health issues, what kind of services we're able to provide for them."

Mansfield say overcrowding conditions this winter and spring are the worst in her eight years practising in New Brunswick.

Mansfield says one quick initiative that would help would be to give a raise to home care workers.

"Right now there are home care workers who are receiving just above minimum wage so it is very hard to recruit home care workers because of the lack of wages," she said. "They're not paid for their time to travel to a senior's home so in Moncton sometimes we are lucky if we can get eight hours a day of care. Some days we can't because we don't have the home care workers we need."

She says the problem is even worse outside the larger cities.

"You go outside to let's say Port Elgin, well good luck trying to get home care workers because they're not paid for their travel, they're not paid for their gas they're not compensated at all.  So if you could immediately raise the wages of those workers, you can get skilled workers in that situation."

Mansfield says it would be a lot cheaper for the province to pay home care workers more than keeping seniors in acute care hospitals.

She says doctors have been quiet for too long and they will now speak out more as they lobby for their patients and their families.