FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is developing an integrated health system to ensure New Brunswickers have access to timelier and improved care.

“Too many residents are getting lost and frustrated trying to navigate our complex health-care system,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “We need to do away with our reliance on antiquated technologies like fax machines and provide New Brunswickers with the more seamless experience they deserve, whether they need to access services that require referrals, or they are undergoing tests for bloodwork and diagnostic imaging.”

The plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action, is available online. It includes five action areas, including:

  • access to primary health care
  • access to surgery
  • create a connected system
  • access to addiction and mental health service
  • support seniors to age in place

The plan includes substantial changes that New Brunswickers will see over the next two years to stabilize and rebuild the health-care system.

Shephard said creating a “connected” system will involve giving residents better access to health information and services; partnering with communities and health-care providers to recruit health professionals; enhancing Ambulance New Brunswick’s services; and creating an integrated laboratory system.

Over the next two years, Shephard said, New Brunswickers will have access to additional services through MyHealthNB, which has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide vaccination and testing information. Residents will be able to use this service to access more health data, such as lab results. People will eventually be able to schedule their own diagnostic tests, giving them more control over when and where such tests take place.

“During the pandemic, we implemented technology to communicate with residents and co-ordinate testing and vaccination appointments in just a matter of weeks,” said Shephard. “This is a success story we can build upon to stabilize health care and start to shift toward a preventative health-care model.”

As part of the health plan, Ambulance New Brunswick will reintroduce the emergency medical technician profession, helping to ensure more ambulances are on the road and leading to better response times. Within two years, the fleet will include multi-patient vehicles, providing more non-emergency transfers for patients and resulting in more timely services for people who are hospitalized or in long-term care and awaiting an appointment elsewhere in the province.

Shephard said communities and health-care providers will become official recruitment partners for a variety of roles, from physicians and nurses to psychologists and mental health counsellors. Community recruitment teams will be supported with a new grant program to help develop promotional materials, in particular for rural communities.

A provincial public health laboratory will be designated, ensuring a more standardized and streamlined process for sample collection, as well as more timely access to results. Shephard said laboratories will become part of an integrated clinical diagnostic and information system over the next two years, ensuring New Brunswickers can have their samples collected close to home and still receive results quickly.

Shephard also noted that technology can be incorporated in the health-care system to address waste and inefficiency while creating a more integrated system for patients and providers.

Along with actions to provide people with their own health information, the government will explore increased use of wearables and home-based monitoring technologies to support patients in their homes. Computerized technology using artificial intelligence and robotic-assisted surgery will be introduced.

This week, the provincial government unveiled its new health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action. The plan outlines a path forward, intended to stabilize and rebuild New Brunswick’s health-care system to be more citizen-focused, accessible, accountable, inclusive and service-oriented.