This past year has been stressful for everyone for many reasons. At just about the same time we were all learning about a new pandemic that was about to go global, residents in rural New Brunswick were reeling from the news that healthcare reforms were going to be introduced that would, among other things, see our emergency rooms closed overnight.
So, here we are a year later. New Brunswickers have shown that they can navigate a pandemic better than most and I think we can do the same with healthcare reform. We have a second chance to create a system of that works for both urban and rural residents rather than simply sacrificing quality care in rural areas in order to strengthen urban healthcare centres. As promised, the Department of Health has confirmed that the emergency rooms in the 6 communities that were slated to lose overnight service will not be closing and will remain operational at all hours throughout the week. And as wonderful as that is, most everyone agrees that our current system is not sustainable and that we must change our existing healthcare model to better reflect today’s realities and those of the future. The good news is that every New Brunswicker has been invited to play a role in shaping that system.
For the past year many of us have been advocating that any meaningful reform can only happen when the voices of our frontline healthcare providers have been heard…that their experiences and ideas be carefully considered. And this time they will be. Minister Shepard has committed to consulting with everyone who has a hand in delivering healthcare and recently she held a virtual conference with our local healthcare leaders who, in turn, provided her with a comprehensive report on our hospital and shared ideas on how to improve the delivery of healthcare. I know that the tone of that meeting was positive and that our doctors finished that meeting optimistic and encouraged. I am grateful to the Minister for that.
Minister Shepard will be having more than 40 community consultations around the province in the coming weeks and ours is scheduled for March 18th at 6:30 p.m. In preparation for those meetings she has released a discussion paper and I urge everyone to read it and think about the questions posed. The Department of Health is also encouraging anyone who wishes to submit a brief to do so at email@example.com .
I suggest that if groups wish to submit a brief that they do that prior to the meeting and then select a single representative to speak on the evening of the 18th so that the minister can listen to as many perspectives as possible. Please take the time to register.