NB Medical Society says province needs to plan ahead for better physician recruitment

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NB Medical Society says province needs to take more “forward-looking approach” to doctor recruitment
WATCH ABOVE: According to the New Brunswick Medical Society there are between 20 and 60,000 people without doctors in the province with Fredericton seeing the highest rate of vacancies. Adrienne South reports on what needs to be done to change the numbers – Mar 10, 2017

The Fredericton and Upper River Valley region has the highest number of doctor and specialist vacancies in the province, according to the New Brunswick Department of Health’s permanent position vacancy list.

READ MORE: Halifax-area doctor says province neglecting shortage of family physicians in HRM

New Brunswick Medical Society CEO Anthony Knight says more needs to be done to recruit doctors to the province to fill those vacancies.

Knight said the doctor shortage is an “ever present challenge for a small rural province in an atmosphere when highly skilled physicians are in constant demand in all part of the world.”

“We’re competing with big jurisdictions, big university hospitals that are very appealing to highly skilled, highly mobile individuals in the medical field,” Knight said.

He said it’s important to look at the number of vacancies that exist, while thinking ahead about the number of future retirees in the province.

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“We need to be thinking two and three and five years ahead about what our future needs are so that we’re not caught in a crunch where a group of physicians retire for any number of reasons,” Knight said.

Knight said “forward-looking recruitment” was part of a committee recommendation in 2015 presented to the province.

“The province drives the bus and we regularly raise the concern around the need for planning for the future,” he said. “But also building in new positions, recognizing that early career physicians who enter practice take on small patient panels, patient rosters, and that creates additional pressure on the system, so we need to look for ways to manage teams differently, look at primary care in a different frame of mind which we’ve also been advocating for with government.”

READ MORE:  11 new physicians set to start medical practices in Fredericton

He said the lack of urgency to put the plan in place is frustration and said he was hoping to see results come to fruition more quickly.

“We are pressing the province to be more active and to set more clear timelines and to hit those timelines around a one-stop website, a one stop number, a clear way to be on-boarded into medicine in our province,” said Knight, adding it should not be a “confusing” process for someone coming to the province.

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Knight said what’s published on the vacancies website is also “a bit of a misnomer” because though there are positions that have been budgeted for, it may not reflect the need.

“If you look at the Patient Connect list, which has patients on a list asking to be absorbed by a family physician, cared for by a family physician, does that set of patients on that list aligns with the number of vacancies and sometimes it doesn’t.,” Knight said.

“And so what we need to do is build new positions within the system so that we are recruiting to what we need but also thinking about the future retirements that are going to come and plan for those.”

Knight said the province’s Patient Connect list is updated daily but currently has approximately 20,000 names of people waiting for family doctors.  He said the total number of people across the province without doctors could be as high as 60,000.

In an email statement to Global News, Health Minister Victor Boudreau said the province has been actively working with the regional health authorities since 2015 and said a physician recruitment coordinator has been hired.

READ MORE: No room in medical clinic, New Brunswick doctor sees patients in parking lot

“The Department of Health has been actively working with the regional health authorities and the New Brunswick Medical Society on establishing a coordinated approach to physician recruitment in our province,” Boudreau said. “A committee has been established with the four partners and a physician recruitment coordinator has been hired to oversee this work and develop a strategy for recruitment and succession planning.”

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Boudreau said a committee is reviewing recruitment incentives, bonuses and grants and says the department has expanded their health budget to include six physician positions that will be added as per the Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick Agreement.

“This will complement the department’s ongoing physician recruitment activities by allowing medical students to continue studying and training in New Brunswick,” said Boudreau.

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