N.B. gov says doctor recruitment successful but medical professionals say more help needed

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WATCH: The NB government is touting recruitment efforts that have yielded over 70 new doctors employed in the province however medical officials say the shortage continues and more is required to alleviate the strain. Jeremy Keefe has that story – Nov 22, 2017

The New Brunswick government says recruitment efforts have helped bolster the number of doctors in the province since they took office, but while medical professionals agree they’re headed in the right direction, they say more needs to be done to fix the problem.

READ MORE: New Brunswick Medical Society calls on premier to take action against proposed federal tax changes

On Wednesday morning, New Brunswick deputy premier Stephen Horsman announced the province’s success in recruiting doctors. He says 74 have been hired since September 2014, which is a net gain of 29 physicians.

Of those, 38 are general practitioners and 36 work as specialists.

Still, over 80 positions remain unfilled, prompting medical officials to indicate the challenge continues to plague the province.

“This is a step in the right direction but there’s still a lot that needs to be done,” said Dharm Singh, the New Brunswick Medical Society’s president.

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“We need physician resource planning, long-term planning in this province for physician recruitment as well as retention.”

Tom Peters, Horizon Health’s medical director for the Fredericton region spoke at Wednesday’s announcement at the Downtown Community Health Centre.

He says although there are very few instances of physicians leaving the province for similar roles elsewhere, getting them to set up in New Brunswick initially can sometimes be difficult, particularly if they have no prior experience in the area.

“When we recruit, there are things we know and things we know will work and won’t work,” he said.

“We know that if it’s a person that we’re recruiting that has no connection with the Maritimes, no family in the Maritimes and really hasn’t spent any time in the Maritimes, it’s a tough recruitment endeavour. It’s also a situation where we’re cognizant of the fact that they might not stay.”

WATCH: NB Medical Society says federal tax changes could worsen doctor shortage

Click to play video 'NB Medical Society says federal tax changes could worsen doctor shortage' NB Medical Society says federal tax changes could worsen doctor shortage
NB Medical Society says federal tax changes could worsen doctor shortage – Sep 29, 2017

Nurse practitioners helping to alleviate some of the strain caused by a shortage of physicians isn’t a new concept in the province, but Peters indicates they could be used in a larger capacity if government made the required legislative changes.

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“We do not have the ability to put nurse practitioners in the hospital, although we would like to, ” he said. “We’re somewhat restricted by the legislature where we can use them.”

READ: Doctor recruitment efforts in New Brunswick ‘on right track’: medical society

Horsman, in line with his government’s frequently discussed commitment to prioritize health care, said they are open to nurse practitioners taking on an increased role although no firm details of any planned motions were provided.

“We’re going to continue to work with our people and work with our stakeholders to ensure that happens,” Horsman said.