New Brunswick

Province to eliminate physician billing number system

The provincial government has announced it is eliminating the physician billing number system.

New Brunswick Medical Society working on alternative

New Brunswick Health Minister Ted Flemming. (CBC)

The provincial government has announced it is eliminating the physician billing number system.

"The physician billing number system no longer works for the province," Health Minister Ted Flemming said in a media release Saturday.

"It is flawed because it restricts the number of physicians practising, restricts the mobility of physicians and impedes recruitment."

Flemming made the announcement during the New Brunswick Medical Society's annual general meeting in Moncton.

During the throne speech in November, Premier Blaine Higgs said one of his major commitments while in government was to eliminate the physician billing number system.

The billing number system was introduced in 1992 and controls where and how many physicians can practise in the province.

Doctors are assigned a billing number as a way to maintain an even distribution of doctors throughout the province, specifically in rural areas.

"After 30 years, we've come to understand that it's a failed experiment," said Dr. Serge Melanson, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, in an interview.

"By removing it, we're essentially streamlining the process such so we can recruit physicians to the province faster and actually give more flexibility and options to physicians who are looking to set up practice in the province." 

Melanson said he hopes this change will provide New Brunswickers with more access to doctors. 

Dr. Serge Melanson, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said he hopes the elimination of the billing number system will improve access to health care. (CBC News)

"We're hoping this will increase recruitment which will, in turn, improve access to health care to our patients," he said.

The system is expected to be phased out by mid-December.

The New Brunswick Medical Society is working with the regional health authorities and the Department of Health to develop an alternative to the billing number system that works on rural recruitment and access to primary care.

"We're empowering the regional health authorities, Vitalité and Horizon, which already have mandates and abilities to hire physicians," Melanson said. "We're actually providing them with more tools to do so in an effective manner."