BATHURST (GNB) – A successful model of standardized care for surgical patients first introduced at the Chaleur Regional Hospital will be implemented in additional hospitals next year.

“The Enhanced Recovery After Surgery project has already resulted in improved care for surgical patients in Bathurst,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “This model helps patients get back on their feet more quickly, shortens hospital stays and reduces surgical complications.”

She said the project will be implemented for colorectal surgery patients in Moncton and for hip and knee replacement surgery patients in Saint John. It focuses on providing standardized care before, during and after a surgery.

Shephard visited the Chaleur Regional Hospital today to talk about access to surgery, one of the five action areas outlined in the new provincial health plan, titled Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action.

The health plan also addresses long wait times for surgeries. By 2023, Shephard said the list of residents waiting more than a year for hip and knee replacement surgery will be eliminated, and no one will wait more than a year for the service. Within two years, all surgical wait times will be cut in half.

To help address wait times, a pilot project will launch next year, allowing primary care providers to electronically refer patients to orthopedic specialists. Residents will be able to choose the next available specialist in their zone, or wait for a specific surgeon. Over the course of the next two years, this process will expand to include other specialties provincewide.

Shephard said residents will also be able to access specialist care more quickly through an integrated e-consultation system that will be implemented provincewide next year. This system is based on a successful prototype that has been underway since 2018, allowing doctors and nurses to ask specialists for advice about patients through the electronic health record.

“This pilot project has showed us that 67 per cent of face-to-face consultations can be avoided,” Shephard said. “This means we have an incredible opportunity to cut wait times and travel times for patients by expanding the e-consultation system.”

This week, the provincial government is unveiling 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.