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Building a sustainable health care system in New Brunswick

Karen McGrath May 2019 No Crop

Karen McGrath, President and CEO, Horizon Health Network

Health care is a complex issue. It's emotional. It's tough. It's loving. It's heartbreaking.

But what it is not, in its current format in New Brunswick, is sustainable.

A sustainable health care system means we are able to deliver quality and safe care without service interruptions due to staffing shortages.

This is not how our current system works, and this is why immediate and major change is needed. We have a responsibility to act on changes today that will support our communities tomorrow.

Our staff constantly face the difficult decision of temporarily closing beds and units, or determining what staff member could be borrowed from one place and put in another. They do not have the resources to keep their programs running.

In the last two years, there have been more than 10 service interruptions at Horizon facilities, with the most recent on Feb. 14. We have closed obstetric, mental health and medical units and reduced the number of beds because of vacancies, staffing shortages, sick calls, and lack of physician coverage.

We also know 35 per cent of physicians, 40 per cent of nurses and 40 per cent of medical laboratory technicians in this province are eligible to retire in the next five years.

This is not the way to provide safe and quality care. You deserve better. Our staff and physicians deserve better.

This is why we made these changes.

We can provide better access to primary care during the day, evening and weekends for patients with non-urgent issues by changing emergency department hours. That means better access to family physicians, nurse practitioners and mental health services in each community, which will also alleviate overcapacity at our regional facilities.

We can ensure our patients awaiting community or nursing home care receive the appropriate care, resources and support while in our facilities by changing our inpatient units and adding a part-time recreation therapist. This also includes basic levels of palliative care services appropriate for chronic care patients.

The surgical program at Sackville Memorial Hospital was closed because the volume of surgeries performed here was low, and we can accommodate those surgeries at The Moncton Hospital.

I know our staff and physicians and the communities of Perth-Andover, Sussex and Sackville feel blindsided and left in the dark on these decisions.

As leaders of our organization, the Executive Leadership Team and I are responsible for making operational decisions.

These changes are very much operational. In our roles we see challenges through a wider lens that extends beyond the borders of each community to the needs and challenges faced system-wide. These are often difficult decisions. 

Change does not stop today.

We need to look at our organization as whole, and review all programs and services to develop a clinical service plan, as well as look at new ways to deliver lab and food services. We also must implement recruitment and retention plans to address staffing shortages.

I understand that for these three communities, these changes feel personal. We know you want service close to home. But there is a better way, and I hope in time you will see that.

As we implement this plan, we will monitor changes, support our staff and physicians and keep our communities informed.




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