Health-care plan with 'concrete actions' coming within 2 months, says Higgs

·2 min read
Premier Blaine Higgs said he's looking to the experience of the COVID-19 task force, which was given the authority to look at all aspects of the health-care system's response, as the province enters a 'whole rethink' of the health system. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Premier Blaine Higgs said he's looking to the experience of the COVID-19 task force, which was given the authority to look at all aspects of the health-care system's response, as the province enters a 'whole rethink' of the health system. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

A report outlining "concrete actions" the provincial government will take to improve the health-care system will be made public within two months, Premier Blaine Higgs says.

Among the issues to be addressed will be the ongoing staffing shortages that have forced a number of hospitals to temporarily close various units, including emergency departments, he said.

"Our challenges are very real, and we're going to have to make some significant improvements."

Last Friday alone, the Horizon Health Network announced Sackville Memorial Hospital's emergency department would be closed all weekend due to a shortage of nurses, and warned that all emergency departments, particularly those in Fredericton, Miramichi, Moncton and Saint John, remain extremely busy and that patients with non-urgent medical issues may experience long wait-times.

Last Thursday, the Vitalité Health Network announced the intensive care unit at Campbellton Regional Hospital was closing until Sept. 9. It said the closure, due to a lack of staff, was necessary in order to keep the emergency department open.

Higgs said the government has heard medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, call on the province to hire more people.

"And, yes, we're going to try," he said in an interview Monday with Information Morning Fredericton. "But I caution, every province is doing that.

"So innovation is going to come right here at home in how do we do it differently, along with how do we source more people? It has to be a combination of both."

The detailed plan will be based on the review and consultations conducted by Health Minister Dorothy Shephard over the past year.

It will be, Higgs said, a "whole rethink" of the health-care system.

Other issues the plan will "address directly" include the thousands of people who don't have access to primary care other than going to the emergency department, and the long wait times for a specialist and surgeries, he said.

"The health-care conditions are going to improve. And it doesn't always necessarily mean it's there in your backyard, but it's in New Brunswick. And it could be any hospital anywhere that can offer a specialized service."

Higgs said the level of co-operation between the Horizon and Vitalité health networks will have to be "unprecedented."

"The isolated protections of kind of, you know, what we do in one area and 'This is my turf,' that has to all be rethought in relation to the bigger picture, because we are challenged in the system," he said.

"But we're not unique. You're hearing it from every province," he added.

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