New Brunswick’s official opposition took aim at the province’s new health plan for the first time since it was unveiled last week.
Opposition leader Roger Melanson specifically targeted the lack of a plan for the recruitment and retention of healthcare workers in New Brunswick.
“A document that speaks of principles and guidelines – [it] it does not give us a real, concrete plan for the recruitment and retention of our healthcare professionals, ”Melanson said during the question period on Tuesday.
He said the plan is primarily focused on technology improvements, but not on the root of the problem in New Brunswick. Melanson argues that New Brunswick is not competitive enough against other provinces that are attracting healthcare workers, such as doctors and nurses, to their region over New Brunswick.
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“That plan doesn’t address that,” he told reporters.
However, Prime Minister Blaine Higgs said the plan helps address the system as a whole. Connect the necessary enhancements to ensure connectivity and access.
The plan was unveiled on November 17 and included many radical changes, including the New Brunswick Primary Care Network.
Shephard says that starting in early 2022, patients registered on Patient Connect NB will be able to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with a GP or nurse practitioner.
Priorities include reducing surgical wait times by 50% and waiting times for high-priority mental health and addiction services for adults by 40%.
One main focus is the use of technology for things such as virtual appointments and self-scheduling for diagnostic tests like blood tests and X-rays. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said much of the current system is outdated, noting that laboratory technicians have to rely on fax machines to transfer information.
“We will explore many new ways to incorporate technology into our healthcare system over the next two years,” Shephard told reporters during a virtual press conference on November 17.
But when Higgs was asked how a system is sustainable if there are not enough human resources, Higgs said he understands that argument.
“What is the appropriate level of human resources? I mean I don’t have that number. I don’t have any predisposed number, and that’s where the challenge lies, right? “, Said.
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As for other provinces competing for resources, he says it is difficult. Richer provinces, he said, will have an advantage, something he said he has discussed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
He added that it is about ensuring that New Brunswick’s health care system is viable for all areas under the Health Canada Act.
Melanson said the plan simply lacked a clearly definable goal or objective.
When asked what his party’s plan would look like, he said it would involve a human resources plan.
“I think I would have had a clear path of how many we want to hire based on what we need, how many we need to hire based on what’s coming and [an] Plan human resources and make sure we have the incentives to keep them in the system, ”he said.
The New Brunswick Nurses Association estimates that about 41 percent of registered nurses are expected to retire in the next few years. Similar figures are calculated for doctors in the province.
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