Green leader says hospital duties putting off potential family doctors

·2 min read

The leader of New Brunswick's Green Party is calling on the province to change the way family doctors work in the province.

David Coon said he would like to see the province hire more doctors whose main job is to work in hospitals.

Currently, family doctors are required to work some hours in local hospitals as part of their job.

Coon said this makes hiring and retaining family doctors more difficult.

"If a doctor is considering moving to New Brunswick, she or he are going to call a colleague here and ask them, 'What's it like?'" said Coon.

"If their answer is, 'I have absolutely no life other than my work and I can't focus on my practice the way I want to because of my hospital obligations,' that's not going to be a very attractive message that potential new doctor to New Brunswick is receiving."

While Health Minister Dorothy Shephard didn't respond directly to Coon's idea, she did concede word of mouth did play a huge role in attracting doctors to the province.

"If medical professionals are satisfied, that in itself is going to be a conversation when it comes to recruiting other doctors," said Shephard.

"Doctors recruiting doctors is always going to be a benefit and we need to promote that."

The availability of family doctors has been a problem for successive provincial governments, both Progressive Conservative and Liberal.

Patient Connect New Brunswick, which maintains a wait list for family doctors, said 44,226 New Brunswickers are on the list.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

Some of those people have been waiting for years.

Fredericton's Debbie Simmonds said she's been without a family doctor since she moved to Fredericton from Prince Edward Island back in 2017.

"The hospital really is the only option for us," said Simmonds.

"We're still waiting. I don't know what else to do."

CBC
CBC

But Shephard said 95 per cent of New Brunswickers do have access to a family doctor and the situation could be worse.

"We have the second best rate in the country," said Shephard.

"I know that this is an issue and I don't in any way, shape or form make light of the fact that people are struggling with receiving a family physician and we're taking moves to make that better. I wish we had 100 per cent"

Liberal MLA Jean Claude D'Amours said he believes the wait list numbers don't tell the whole story.

"Not every New Brunswicker who [doesn't] have a family doctor will call the patient clinic line to ask them to be [added] on the list." said D'Amours.

"When we are talking about the 44,000 New Brunswickers without a family doctor, it's probably even higher than that."