Faster progress needed on Atlantic healthcare collaboration, MLAs say

N.B. Green MLA Megan Mitton of Memramcook-Tantramar and N.S. Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin of Cumberland North say regional co-operation in health care is essential. (CBC - image credit)
N.B. Green MLA Megan Mitton of Memramcook-Tantramar and N.S. Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin of Cumberland North say regional co-operation in health care is essential. (CBC - image credit)

MLAs from the Sackville and Amherst areas are calling for faster progress on an Atlantic-wide licence so health-care providers can work across provincial borders.

Independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin of Cumberland North, N.S., and Green MLA Megan Mitton of Memramcook-Tantramar, N.B., say this kind of regional co-operation is urgent and would be especially valuable for border communities.

"If there's an ambulance in my riding that's closer to Amherst and Moncton, in some circumstances maybe it should go there," Mitton told Information Morning Moncton.

Mitton said there are already people crossing the border daily to work in health care or access health services. She said the lack of uniformity from province to province, especially in electronic health records, hurts both patients and health-care workers.

Smith-McCrossin said the system makes it difficult for health-care workers to be licensed in more than one province.

"Let's say there was a doctor in Amherst that wanted to do some shifts at the Sackville Emergency Department or vice versa. Right now they can only do that if they're licensed separately in both provinces and reality is very expensive to be to be licensed," she told.

"It's a barrier for sure."

Plans in the works

Atlantic premiers have been discussing a unified health-care program for years. The issue has been on the agenda in every recent meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers.

In December of 2021, the premiers signed an agreement, which they dubbed the Atlantic Health Accord. They agreed to "work together to develop and maintain specialized care services for the region, limiting duplication while ensuring local needs are met."

Last spring the premiers' council also said that through that agreement, "Premiers are working [toward] an Atlantic system to allow physicians to move and practice throughout the region."

At the time, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said all four Atlantic provinces are experiencing similar challenges when it comes to health care, and part of the solution would be to make it easier for health-care workers to travel between provinces.

"We are one region and there's lots of family ties between them," he said. "And so those are the opportunities that I'm looking forward to."

There have been no details about how such a system would work, and no timelines have been shared.

Most recently, last month, the premiers reiterated that this is something they're working on.

New Brunswick Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie said a cross-province licensing system is still in the planning stages.

"Credential recognition and the licensure of physicians and other health professionals is a priority file for the Council of Atlantic Premiers. But we have nothing new to share at this time," he said Tuesday.

Last fall, Newfoundland Premier Nick Furey said his government will pass legislation that will make it easier for physicians from other provinces to apply for a licence in his province. He said this is a step toward an Atlantic licence, and that he expects other provinces will introduce similar legislation.