Across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia there are more than 75,000 people on waiting lists for family physicians.
Despite the large number, New Brunswick’s health minister says the overall state of health care is “going very well.”
“We are mindful that there are some challenges, namely in the recruitment of health care professionals,” Benoit Bourque said.
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The number of New Brunswickers on the doctor waiting list is 25,000 people.
The province says that’s up around 5,000 from this time last year, but points out that even people who have a family physician who want to change doctors can sign up.
“When you look at those numbers, it doesn’t mean that all of these people do not have a family physician,” he said.
That may be, but Statistics Canada estimates that more than nine per cent of the province’s population are without a family doctor. That’s approximately 70,000 New Brunswickers.
The situation is worse in Nova Scotia, where an estimated 100,000 people are without a family doctor and just over 50,000 are on a wait list.
One difference between the two provinces is pay. Provinces are in competition with one another to attract physicians.
According to data from the Canadian Institute of Health Information, family physicians in New Brunswick earn about $251,970 a year, less than the national average of $275,294. They do out-earn their Nova Scotia counterparts, who take home around $219,648.
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But Bourque says pay is not the only factor in recruitment, and he isn’t saying doctors need to be paid better in New Brunswick.
“What I believe is, it’s not just about money. It’s about structure, it’s providing great work conditions, and I think work-life balance is just as important and maybe even more important,” he said.
To those without access to a family physician, Bourque says the government is “absolutely working on it.”