N.B. health minister says help coming for doctors

Click to play video: 'Volunteers create online recruitment campaign to attract doctors to New Brunswick' Volunteers create online recruitment campaign to attract doctors to New Brunswick
Ongoing staffing shortages at the Sackville Memorial Hospital continue to limit the services it can provide to residents. A group of volunteers has started working with Horizon Health Network on their own online recruitment campaign to attract doctors to the area. Suzanne Lapointe reports. – Feb 22, 2022

New Brunswick’s health minister says a new program for doctors who work in hospitals will reduce pressure on family physicians across the province and help retain more of them.

Dorothy Shephard made the comments Tuesday, shortly after Green Party Leader David Coon called on the government to change the way family physicians are treated in the province.

Coon said a family doctor recently left New Brunswick because she couldn’t fulfil a requirement that she work a specific number of hours per week in hospital. He said family doctors are required to spend some of their time in the hospital network, effectively subsidizing the regional health authorities.

“Doctors in New Brunswick have told me this is a major recruitment barrier because it detracts from their family practice and causes burnout,” Coon said in a statement.

Read more: Volunteers create online recruitment campaign to attract doctors to Sackville, N.B.

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Shephard said an agreement on the program for hospitalists — doctors who work in hospitals — was reached in the five-year deal ratified with the New Brunswick Medical Society late last year. She said having more doctors who work only in the hospital network will help the health system better manage patient cases.

“If a patient is ready to be discharged at 9 a.m., they are not waiting for their family physician all day to come in at maybe 4 or 5 p.m. or later to see them and discharge them. A hospitalist can do that,” Shephard said in an interview.

“Family physicians have said hospital time is taking away time from their patients in the office. They said they could do so much more if they didn’t have to spend the time in the hospitals,” she said.

Shephard said the plan will permit the government to add more doctors in the province’s hospitals.

Medical society president Dr. Mark MacMillan said the agreement has already shown results.

“We have some dedicated hospitalists in this province and they are proving to be very helpful and useful,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We are going to see the results of that in the near future as well.”

Shephard said there are 891 family physicians in New Brunswick, which is a net gain of 18 doctors since last April. Twenty-two left, but 40 were hired, she added.

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MacMillan said efforts to recruit more doctors are ongoing but will take time. Doctors, he said, are in high demand and are being aggressively recruited by all provinces and internationally.

MacMillan said the recruitment effort should encompass more than just the job.

“We have an amazing province with amazing people in the province, beautiful outdoors and nature, and lots of things that make the province attractive,” he said. “But we also have to enhance the health-care system so that when physicians do want to come to work here, they have the resources available to do their work.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2022.

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