FREDERICTON (GNB) – The co-chairs of the provincial government’s health plan implementation task force say they are seeing a vibrant passion for community health care and an encouraging desire for partnership in finding solutions.

Suzanne Johnston and Gérald Richard were appointed last fall to ensure implementation of the actions in the government’s health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action. They provided an update today after meeting with more than 40 individuals and community and organizational leaders to discuss the plan and its five action areas. New Brunswickers will be able to follow progress on the plan’s implementation on a new website launching this week.

Johnston and Richard said there is an openness to how people conceptualize health care in the communities they have visited, and that they were impressed with areas of the province where best practices are already being followed, with physicians and other health professionals working together through different models to provide a full range of primary care and community health services.

“We are hearing how clinicians working in collaborative teams find greater job satisfaction, and patients have told us ‘a team working together to help me stay healthy – that works for me,’” said Johnston. “Lifting the learnings from these areas allow us to move more quickly and inform solutions in other communities.”

Richard said there is strength in not taking a cookie-cutter approach to address the needs of individual communities.

“It is in the conversations around the table, in the communities, where we learn what works best for that community, and it is our role to take that information back to the health-care providers and have those conversations,” said Richard.

An example of community-led innovations is a project known as Nursing Homes Without Walls. It is led by a researcher at the Université de Moncton, supported by the Department of Social Development, and being piloted in six communities.

“There has been a 63 per cent drop in emergency room visits for people in Port Elgin enrolled in the Nursing Homes Without Walls program,” said Richard. “These are the success stories we need to share and learn from.”

Johnston said there is recognition across the province that everybody does not expect every service to be available everywhere; however, there is a reasonable expectation that people have access to a connected system of care, whether through new technology or a more co-ordinated approach among providers. She said this shift in attitudes bodes well for a successful evolution of New Brunswick’s health-care system.

“Health happens in communities,” said Johnston. “We have the opportunity to work together in advancing health-care delivery models in New Brunswick.”

Since the launch of the health plan last November:

  • eVisitNB virtual care is now available at no charge for people with a medicare card.
  • There have been enhancements to Tele-Care 811 referral services, including arranging a consultation with a doctor or nurse practitioner, either in person or over the phone.
  • Pharmacists can now renew many prescriptions, including those for shingles and birth control, without patients needing to visit a primary care provider.
  • Pharmacist fees for shingles and birth control management are now among those paid for by the government.
  • With respect to emergency care and 911 calls, paramedics are to use clinical judgement to find the most appropriate community care option.
  • With respect to addiction and mental health services, one-at-a-time therapy has been introduced and Bridge the gApp use has increased by 20 per cent. Bridge the gApp is an online access point for services related to substance abuse and mental health.
  • Four communities have been identified as sites for integrated community care: Dalhousie, Sussex, Fredericton and Charlotte County. Recruitment is underway for community developers and nurse practitioners in these communities, and community advisory committees are being established.
  • Family doctors and surgeons in the Fredericton and Bathurst regions are being trained to use a new e-referral program to improve patient access to surgery.
  • The Enhanced Recovery After Surgery program has been launched for colorectal surgery patients at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre. Preparations are underway to launch the program for colorectal surgery patients at the Moncton Hospital and for and hip and knee replacement surgery patients in Saint John. This program was first piloted at the Chaleur Regional Hospital and is shortening hospital stays and reducing surgical complications.