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NB Doctor Recruiting

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The doctor shortage in New Brunswick is a well-documented struggle. The province continually cites difficulty in recruiting doctors to the area because of the heavy workload. The doctors cite being overworked because of the number of patients. And the patients complain of long wait times in the ER and difficulty finding a family doctor because there aren’t enough doctors in the area.

Sean Graham’s government has made improving this situation a major part of their strategy. On October 26th they put out a press release detailing the headway they have made since October of 2006. The major points are as follows:

-A net increase of 144 physicians, with a pledge to add 40 more before March 2010.

– The increase over the last two fiscal years has been the largest since 1994.

-91 percent of NB residents report having regular access to a doctor, putting it 3rd among provinces and territories.

The release also pointed out that there are just over 1500 registered physicians in NB. According to the 2006 Census, the population of New Brunswick is approximately 730 000 souls. That works out to about 1 doctor for every 500 residents. The real picture, however is slightly different. Half of the physicians registered in New Brunswick, 735, are family physicians, the rest are specialists. In terms of access to a family doctor, then, there is actually 1 doctor for every 1000 residents.

Health Minister Mary Schryer could not be reached for this article, but Media Relations Co-ordinator Meghan Cumby said the release shows that the province is making progress towards its recruitment goals.

“ It is good news for New Brunswickers. Hiring more doctors is good news for our recruitment efforts.”

Despite the increase in recruitment, the numbers do show an overall decline in patient satisfaction. According to Statistics Canada, 85 percent of Canadians said they had regular access to a doctor. This is a 1.5 percent decrease since 2003. While that might not sound like a lot, it represents some 500 000 Canadians. New Brunswick does rank third in overall doctor access, but has the sixth highest loss in doctor access, down 1.6 percent since 2003.

Debra Pitts has been a registered nurse in Saint John for over two decades.  Like most other people she sees the need for more physicians in the province, but percieves the greatest need to be for family doctors. She cautions that raw numbers might not tell the whole recruitment story.

“They may have hired 140 doctors, but do they all work to their capacity? I’m not sure, and if they did that would help but I think there’s still a need for more doctors.”

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Written by Colin Hodd

April 15, 2010 at 3:30 PM

Posted in Print

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