The New Brunswick Health Council's most recent survey shows there has been no improvement over three years in key areas of patient care experience in the province's hospitals.
The council's patient care experience survey, released Wednesday, was completed in 2019 and shows some areas where the rating went down from the last survey in 2016.
The organization's CEO, Stephane Robichaud, said the survey results show there are three areas the Department of Health and the two regional health authorities need to address to reverse the lack of improvement. They are:
- targets for patient care experiences;
- a strong accountability structure;
- transparency in public reporting.
"What became clear as we're looking at this after a decade of measurement is the importance of talking about the absence of improvement," said Robichaud.
Over that time, the CEO said there have been four different governments, a number of health ministers and about 10 different CEOs at the province's two regional health authorities, Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network.
"How do we ensure in an environment where there's so much change at the top that we're ensuring a sustained and organizational–wide effort on these types of items?" Robichaud questioned.
The CEO said he is calling on Dorothy Shepherd, the new health minister, to identify priority areas, the targets that need to be met and ensure it's transparent.
"Citizens have a right to know."
In the survey, based on the comments from more than 6,000 patients surveyed, 78.5 per cent rated the hospital they stayed in favourably in 2019, down slightly from a 78.9 per cent rating in the 2016 survey.
Two unfavourable changes were found within the Vitalité Health Network among the 16 key indicators. Patients who said the hospital took their safety seriously dropped from 84.3 per cent to 81.1 per cent.
As well, patients indicating they were completely informed about the hospital admission process when admitted through the emergency room dropped by five per cent from 60.5 in 2016 to 55.5 in 2019.
Robichaud said accountability has to be increased to ensure improvements, and targets like those set in the delivery of the Extra-Mural program contract with Medavie should be put in place.
He added the RHAs need to be more transparent with patients, staff and the public to show they are working to make improvements by providing results to them.
"One of the things that concerned me going through the surveys last year was the sense through social media by some staff in RHAs wondering what the use was of answering these surveys because they weren't seeing efforts to improve these areas within the RHAs."
Robichaud said communication with patients by doctors and staff is important to help improve their stay in hospital .
Another area with an 'unfavourable change' in the survey resulted from patients who said they always received services in French, the language of their choice. In 2019, the survey result was 80.9 per cent, which was down from 83.8 per cent in 2016.
The 33 page survey document covers the 20 hospitals across the province, and includes issues like patient experiences with the admission process, communication with nurses and doctors, responsiveness of staff, pain control, cleanliness of rooms and bathrooms, and their transition experience from hospital to home.
Individual hospital success
The survey report includes the results from each hospital. While the overall results have generally remained stagnate, Robichaud said there is one hospital that has made significant improvements.
"The Chaleur Hospital, the Bathurst regional hospital has actually made some improvements in key areas."
Robichaud said over the last decade they focused on communications that centred on the key roles of nurses.
"Our results over the last ten years is showing that they've actually been able to do some improvements. It shows that it is possible but you need a very focused attention and a sustained attention over time."
NBHC is an independent organization that measures, monitors and evaluates New Brunswick's health system performance through a citizen-centred dual mandate of performance measurement and citizen engagement.