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N.B. doctors asked to redeploy as Omicron strains health system

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Doctors in New Brunswick are being incentivized to redeploy to other parts of the province, between the two health authorities, and move to areas outside their specialty, according to a new internal memo obtained by Global News.

The internal memo dated Jan. 11 states the move is being made because of the likelihood of increased hospitalizations and a reduction in physician resources as a result of infections of COVID-19.

Read more: COVID-19 — N.B. imposing 16-day lockdown, top doctor says ‘matter of life and death’

The incentive program, according to the memo, was done in collaboration with the Department of Health, the two health authorities and the New Brunswick Medical Society.

“Physician redeployment is intended to support the operations of emergency rooms, intensive care units, and concentrated care units across various hospitals,” the memo reads.

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“FFS (fee-for-service) physicians may submit their names to the RHAs contact noted below,” it went on to say. “Any increased cost to CMPH (community medicine/public health) categories for physicians practicing outside their regular area of expertise will be covered by the Department of Health.”

Those incentives include:

  • $2,500 one-time sign-on incentive.
  • $500 per shift (emergency room, intensive care unit/critical care unit) to a maximum of $2,500 per week.
  • Physicians will be remunerated at the applicable ER or ICU/CCU rate of the facility where the service is being provided.
  • Travel will be billed using code 8889 – Travel Stipend (actual travel time, 20-minute intervals using generic unit value of $1.01) 25 units.
  • Meals and accommodations will be reimbursed by the health authorities.
  • Access to child care at the facility where the physician is redeployed.

Both health authorities directed Global News to the Department of Health for questions on the memo.

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Read more: Omicron making life difficult for mathematicians trying to track COVID-19

The New Brunswick Medical Society said it is aware of the program and said its members are participating. It directed Global News to the two health authorities for the numbers of doctors in the program out because of COVID-19 or how many might be needed to be redeployed.

The Department of Health said in an email “the highly contagious Omicron variant is spreading quickly and having a serious impact on our already fragile health system. We are implementing several initiatives to ensure vital resources are available to provide care to patients throughout the province.”

It confirmed the memo and the program had recently been established as it looks to maintain services throughout the province.

“A similar initiative was recently established for critical care nurses,” the statement said.

Vitalité Health Network has 154 health-care workers with COVID-19 who must be removed from work.

Horizon Health Network is reporting 178 total staff of work due to COVID-19.

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