FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Health released its 2017-18 budget estimates that include record investments in health care.

“Your government is listening and knows a strong and vibrant health-care system is important to New Brunswick families,” said Health Minister Victor Boudreau. “Health-care funding is the largest expenditure in our province. It is a priority for our government as we know the availability and delivery of health services have a significant impact on the quality of life.”

Thanks to a partnership with the federal government, this year’s budget for health care is increasing by 3.3 per cent, bringing the budget for the Department of Health to $2.657 billion for the year 2017-18. This is the largest increase since 2010-11.

“A key to better health care delivery for New Brunswickers and the best way to control the inevitable rise of health care costs is by putting emphasis on primary care,” said Boudreau. “Your government is making the necessary investments to enhance access to quality health care for New Brunswick families.”

To help improve primary and acute care in the province, the following investments will be made in the following year:

  • Increasing the annual operating budget for the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre by $1.3 million.
  • Adding six physician positions as per the Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick Agreement. This will complement the department’s ongoing physician recruitment activities by allowing medical students to continue studying and training in New Brunswick.
  • Investing $4.4 million in the New Brunswick Heart Centre at the Saint John Regional Hospital to allow for the recruitment and of a new cardiac surgeon as well as a new electrophysiology physician.

Investments and strategies to support people with mental health challenges were also highlighted in the budget, including:

  • Continuing support for the Integrated Service Delivery model for children and youth with emotional, behavioural, and mental health issues in collaboration with the departments of Education and Early Childhood Development, Justice and Public Safety, and Social Development.
  • The recently announced amendments to the Mental Health Act to integrate supervised community care into the mental health continuum of care.

The provincial government will also invest a near-record $110.3 million in health infrastructure in the following year including the following projects:

  • $2.5 million to begin the work on the estimated $90 million renovations at the Saint John Regional Hospital. This year’s investment will begin the functional programming, conceptual design and construction documentation planning for the renovations and upgrades to the surgical unit, oncology and Intensive Care Unit.
  • Continuing investment of $4.4 million in the estimated $200 million expansion at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton. This year’s funds will be to continue design and engineering work.
  • $2 million to help build separate units for neonatal intensive care, maternity and newborns, as well as relocate and improve the cardiac care areas at the Moncton Hospital, a nearly $35 million project.
  • Continuing work on the addition of the surgical suite and renovations at the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.
  • Investing in the expansion to the Paquetville Health Centre.

Other investments include:

  • Expanding the vaccination program to include two new vaccines: the rotavirus vaccine for infants as well as the HPV vaccine for boys in middle school.
  • Provide a grant to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in support of their vision rehabilitation programs.

The recently-launched New Brunswick Family Plan Framework is intended to complement the Economic Growth Plan and 10-year education plans and aims to ensure that families are supported, resulting in a healthier province. The New Brunswick Family Plan Framework focuses government action in seven priority areas: improving access to primary and acute care; promoting wellness; supporting people with mental health challenges; fostering healthy aging and support for seniors; advancing women’s equality; reducing poverty; and supporting people with disabilities.