FREDERICTON (GNB) – New legislation introduced today would allow some surgical procedures to be performed outside a hospital.

“Allowing surgical facilities to provide insured procedures outside of hospitals will improve service to patients and alleviate pressure on our hospital system,” said Health Minister Bruce Fitch. “This will help patients get back quickly to doing the things they love, and it will open operating suites for other surgeries to be performed in their place.”

Fitch said the Health Facilities Act is intended to improve accessibility to health services and ensure the efficient delivery of high-quality publicly funded care based upon high standards and best practices.

“Importantly, the act also ensures that no person who is entitled to a funded surgical service will be required to pay for that service or be able to pay for priority access,” he said.

The government will look first at cataract surgeries and possibly other surgical procedures where the need is high and there can be an assurance that they can be performed safely and efficiently, said Fitch. A pilot program in Bathurst and Miramichi which has cataract surgeries being performed in clinics has shown positive results and reduced the wait list for these procedures.

To ensure proper oversight of these services and to ensure they are provided equitably, any surgical facility outside a hospital will be required to operate under an agreement with a regional health authority and be approved by the Department of Health. Both the department and the regional health authority will be able to inspect and audit these facilities.