The Official Opposition is condemning the lack of focus on recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals by the Higgs government and calls for better working conditions before the situation escalates any further.
“The shortage of healthcare professionals is nearing a critical level. The most recent example of the direct effects of this shortage comes from the Georges Dumont Hospital and the Stella Maris-de-Kent Hospital who are limiting new admissions, some patients are being transferred to other facilities, and others are being released early” said Roger Melanson, interim Leader of the Official Opposition. “Every year more nurses are retiring, while others are leaving the province for better working conditions and nursing students are being recruited by neighboring provinces. The situation is fast becoming critical and the Higgs government’s obsession with a major healthcare reform will not address the immediate and dire needs of the population.”
Since being elected, the Higgs government has done little to address the shortage of healthcare professionals. In 2019, they cut $9 million from the nursing programs at two public Universities and while they later expanded the bridging program, this only provides a little over $1 million per year and will not result in net gain of nurses since it is a program to help Licensed Practical Nurses become Registered Nurses.
The interim Liberal Leader believes better salaries and working conditions will be key to stopping the exodus of practicing health professionals and new graduates towards other provinces. “Premier Higgs has made it very clear he has no intention on improving working conditions for health professionals in the province. While negotiating with unions, he refused to give nursing home workers a suitable wage increase, proposed little to no wage increase for Licensed practical nurses who are already making significantly less in New Brunswick than the other Atlantic provinces, and actually left the bargaining table with the union.”
While COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on the system, the fact that hospitals in areas with low numbers of cases are redirecting patients and limiting admissions points to a bigger issue.
“We have a healthcare professional shortage at a critical level, and we’re in the worst global health crisis in a hundred years. The pandemic is taking a toll on our healthcare workers and if the Premier thinks the shortage will magically get better once the pandemic is over, he is sadly mistaken. A health reform without better working conditions will not yield the results New Brunswick needs” said Melanson.