Higgs’ comments about GPs could hurt recruitment, says the NB Medical Society
The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society earlier this week questions a suggestion by the prime minister that everyone could have access to a GP if doctors admitted more patients, saying his comments could hurt recruitment and retention.
dr Michèle Michaud claims that GPs are already working beyond their capacity.
“With current resources, you’re not going to do that by just saying, ‘Take two or three more,'” she said in French.
Michaud was responding to comments made by Prime Minister Blaine Higgs at a news conference in Charlottetown on Monday.
“If every doctor in our province took on two or three more patients a week, we wouldn’t have a backlog,” Higgs said.
“Each of us has to find a way to deliver health care differently because I think we will all say unanimously that it is not okay to just put more money into an unmanaged system,” he said.
“I think we’re all capable of innovating in this process.”
About 55,000 people are registered with the province without a family doctor.
According to Michaud, who is a primary care physician, palliative care physician, pain clinician and hospital resident at Edmundston Regional Hospital, primary care physicians “have been at peak capacity and even peak capacity for some time.”
They care for patients who are becoming increasingly ill, she said, noting the aging population each requiring more time.
In addition, the work of family doctors is not limited to consultation appointments, emphasized Michaud. It could include “emergency room work, midwifery, childbirth, postnatal care clinics, palliative care.” We’re also running more and more oncology clinics, in addition to serving nursing homes that need on-site doctors on a regular basis,” she said.
There’s also follow-up on patient health, management of test results, and management of staff and other administrative tasks, Michaud said.
We risk causing more professional burnout among physicians in the community. – Michèle Michaud, President of the New Brunswick Medical Society
In order to relieve the waiting lists, she instead proposes filling the staff shortage. This would support collaboration in clinics, for example.
“Ask family doctors [to work] more is not necessarily the solution at the moment: on the contrary, we risk causing more professional burnout among doctors in the community,” Michaud said.
“It also risks affecting our recruitment and retention of doctors who are already in office in the long and medium term.”
Opposition calls comments ‘irresponsible’, ‘attack’
New Brunswick Liberal Party leader Susan Holt agrees.
“It was a bit of an irresponsible comment to just say, ‘Hey, get two or three more people a week.’ It doesn’t respect the nature of the problem,” she said.
According to Holt, Higgs’ comments, made at a regional forum following a meeting of Atlantic premiership ministers, are not helping New Brunswick.
“It’s not good news to lure people here that we’re asking our doctors to do more. This is not good news for recruitment.”
Green Party health critic Megan Mitton was also surprised by Higgs’ comments. “Not only is it bizarre, it is problematic that the Prime Minister is attacking the various health professionals,” she said.
Mitton dismisses the idea that doctors aren’t already doing enough. “It’s not true that they sit around and do nothing, so it’s a bit of an attack on doctors.”
Like Michaud and Holt, Mitton believes a collaborative approach could help reduce waiting lists for a GP.
In her opinion, it would also be necessary to hire more doctors in hospitals in order to give general practitioners more time for their patients.