New Brunswick

New Brunswick doctors not 'doing fine,' says new medical society president

The new president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says COVID-19 has taken a toll and doctors need more support.

Dr. Michèle Michaud says the pandemic has taken a toll and doctors need more support

A portrait of a woman.
Dr. Michèle Michaud, the new president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, hopes her experience working in both a family practice and in the hospital setting will serve her well in her new role. (New Brunswick Medical Society)

The new president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says COVID-19 has taken a toll and doctors need more support.

"Unfortunately, I would like to say to you that everybody is doing fine, but the pandemic has just caused a high level of burnout of all physicians and also on health-care providers all around the province," said Dr. Michèle Michaud.

She points to reduced office hours, clinics closing and early retirements.

"So we need to find ways to help and support them and ensure that their wellness is well taken care [of] so we can maybe have them for longer periods."

Michaud, a family physician, palliative care physician, pain clinic physician and hospitalist at the Edmundston Regional Hospital, said the challenges the health-care system is facing are what motivated her to take on her new role this week, representing the province's more than 2,000 doctors.

"I'm pushed to — like others — want to help and find solutions," she said. "It's in my personality."

Michaud intends to advocate for "enhanced access to primary and specialty care and for innovative solutions to critical health human resource shortages," according to a news release issued by the society.

Family doctor shortages 'especially critical'

The family physician shortage is "especially critical" at this time, she said, because it's making it difficult for people to access quality care.

As of mid-August, about 74,000 people were on the Patient Connect list as not having a family doctor.

In the 2022-23 fiscal year, 15 doctors started practising in New Brunswick, but 22 left their positions. In the 2021-22 fiscal year, 76 doctors retired or relocated.

The shortage of doctors and other health-care professionals is also increasing wait times in emergency departments, for surgeries, diagnostic images, and for elderly care, she said.

Michaud hopes to work with the government, the regional health authorities and other stakeholders to find ways to recruit more physicians, especially into community practices, and to retain the ones already in place.

She has "a lot" of ideas, she said, although she put off discussing any specifics until a later time. She did say, however, that "support is the key."

Michaud's immediate goal in the coming weeks is to ensure the province's doctors are aligned and on the front lines when it comes to challenges and changes.

"So I'll be working with to engage our members, but also hear from them and find the best solutions for everybody."

Michaud, originally from Edmundston, graduated from Université Laval Medical School in 2008 and completed her residency in family medicine in 2010.

She has been active with the New Brunswick Medical Society for many years as a member of the negotiations committee and a member of the executive council. She joined the board of directors in 2014 and was nominated as president-elect in 2021.

With files from Shift