Three doctors have replaced four family physicians who left their practices in the Fredericton region earlier this year, Horizon Health Network has confirmed.
In July, the health authority said the doctors each had their own reasons for leaving. The authority also said four new family doctors were expected to arrive in the city "sometime this fall."
The three new physicians are providing needed locum coverage for maternity and sick leaves in the area, according to Dr. Edouard Hendriks, vice-president, medical, academic and research affairs for Horizon Health Network.
Once those leaves expire, two of the physicians are expected to start their own practices this winter. The third physician will be joining Horizon's Gibson Health Centre in early 2021, a healthcare team that provides primary healthcare services to families in the Fredericton region.
Two additional physicians will be completing their residencies by June 2021 and are expected to establish practices by July, Hendriks said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
"We are thrilled to welcome these physicians to our community and wish them all the best as they set out on their own paths."
CBC News has asked for an interview with Horizon Health Network and is waiting for a response.
4 doctors leave practices since May
One of the family doctors was Dr. Ann Collins, who left her post as a family physician in Fredericton to become the next president of the Canadian Medical Association, which advocates on subjects related to national health.
Collins, who has been a family physician for more than 20 years, has more than 3,000 patients in the Fredericton area who will be seeking a family doctor.
The other three family physicians are Dr. Jacques Béland, Dr. Achla Pond and Dr. Sunita MacMullin, who stopped working in Fredericton in April to work full-time in Sussex.
In 2018, MacMullin left her practice because of a lack of "on-call" support from other doctors in her family physician group. She later returned to her practice and alternated weekly visits in Fredericton and Sussex.
According to the province, MacMullin billed just under $1.7 million during the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019 — leading the list of top billers in New Brunswick, ahead of radiologists.
MacMullin said she was told by the Department of Health she had too many patients, which was prohibiting her from providing proper care.
Thousands of patients waiting for family doctor
Patient Connect NB has a list of more than 15,000 patients waiting for a doctor in Zone 3, which covers Fredericton and a large portion of the St. John River Valley.
Last week, CBC News also reported that the Restigouche region has lost four family doctors since May, leaving 5,000 people with no primary health-care provider.
About 37,000 people in the province are without a doctor or nurse practitioner.
But finding new doctors isn't easy.
New Brunswick competes with every other province to attract and retain physicians, who are in great demand across Canada.
"The New Brunswick Medical Society is encouraged to hear that three new family physicians have been hired to care for patients in the Fredericton area," said Dr. Chris Goodyear, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.
"Physician recruitment continues to be a challenge in all regions of New Brunswick and across the country."
Premier Blaine Higgs has promised to provide $5 million to recruit doctors in rural areas and $4.2 million to add nurse practitioners to clinics and emergency rooms.