While New Brunswick continues to address its growing waitlist for a primary care provider, the health minister will not commit to more initiatives to address health care.
Touring the latest NB Health Link clinic in Fredericton Friday, Bruce Fitch said the number of people in need of a primary care provider had fallen from a high of 74,000 to 59,000.
“This will alleviate some of the stress on the emergency rooms because people will be getting their primary care looked after in a clinic such as this,” Fitch remarked.
The health link program provides access to a network of family doctors and nurse practitioners.
In the fall the province opened the first health link clinics in Moncton and Dieppe. According to a provincial news release, 14,207 people have registered with the program and 5,959 confirmed they already have a health-care provider.
”It’s a step up from the walk in because there’s ongoing service and there’s the availability because I believe there’s three doctors in this clinic.”
Fredericton is now home to one of five clinics, along with Moncton, Dieppe, Woodstock and Dalhousie, Fitch said.
While the waitlist appears to be on the decline, the province remains faced with a shortage of resources.
When asked about doctors being pulled away from other areas of the health-care sector, Dr. Matthew Piamonte, a physician, noted it’s worth it given the result.
“So, while you may be pulling professionals from other areas in health care because resources are finite with respect to health-care professionals, I think that when you are addressing that primary care gap, you’re still doing good,” Piamonte told reporters.
Piamonte said the clinic style allows doctors who are semi-retired or do not want to own a practice to maintain patients.
However, he does believe there is still work to be done in the province’s health-care sector.
“Yeah, I think that New Brunswick can benefit from looking at what some of the other provinces are doing.”
Coming out of school, he said, other provinces, like Nova Scotia, offered incentives to recruit doctors.
Despite this comment and questions about initiatives in other provinces., Fitch remained hesitant to commit to new health plans.
In Nova Scotia, the Tim Houston government recently introduced a plan intended to improve emergency care. On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced plans to allow health-care workers from other provinces to immediately start practicing in Ontario.
”We’re forever looking at what other jurisdictions are offering, and I know some of the premiers, when they have the discussion, they don’t want to get into a bidding war because, again, there’s limited resources. Even though we’re in a nice financial position right now, that may not be forever,” Fitch remarked.
As for the NB Health Link clinics, Fitch stated they plan to have locations across the province by “mid-year.”