Question Period: Emergency Room Wait Times – 29 June 2016
Mr. Coon: It is great to be back in the House. We have so much pent-up potential to solve real problems for New Brunswickers and to put real solutions in place. One of those real problems is the length of waiting times in the emergency departments in our hospitals, particularly in our three largest cities. I regularly hear about the length of waiting times at the Chalmers hospital in Fredericton being up to 12, 13, or 14 hours for people. That is way too long, cruelly long, for children and people in pain. I want to know whether the Minister of Health can explain to this House why it appears as though nothing is being done to improve wait times in our hospital emergency rooms.
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I thank the member opposite for the question. I assure him that the Department of Health is doing everything that it can to bring improvements and efficiencies to the system. The challenge that we have is that the opposition opposes every single initiative that we put out there to try to improve our health care system. The opposition members oppose everything that we are trying to do. Whenever we try to move the yardstick forward and make certain adjustments to our health care system, the opposition members oppose them. It is in their DNA, it seems, to oppose every single initiative brought forward by this government. We have been working on a plan with our Extra-Mural Program, with Ambulance New Brunswick, and with Tele-Care 811 to improve our health care system.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: We have been working with the Medical Society to put in place Family Medicine New Brunswick, which will improve access to primary care. By improving access to primary care, we will reduce the backlogs in the hospitals.
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.
Mr. Coon: That is sort of the answer that Mr. McGarry, the CEO of Horizon Health Network, gave to the Crown corporations committee last year. He said that, if they improved and shortened the wait times in emergency rooms—and he acknowledged that they could do it because there are good models out there that utilize nurse practitioners to deal with the routine ear infections in kids, urinary tract infections, and so on—they would draw more people into the emergency rooms, and they do not want that. My question to the Minister of Health is this: Does the minister concur with the position that the reason wait times are so long in the hospitals of this province is that they do not want to draw more people into the emergency rooms of our hospitals?
L’hon. M. Boudreau : Je vais tenter de donner ma réponse de nouveau, étant donné que le député d’en face ne l’a peut-être pas comprise la première fois. La raison pour laquelle les attentes sont longues dans nos salles d’urgence, c’est que nous n’avons pas assez de personnel en ce qui a trait aux soins primaires. Nous cherchons à augmenter notre capacité pour ce qui est des soins primaires, en travaillant avec le Programme extra-mural, en travaillant avec Ambulance Nouveau-Brunswick, en travaillant avec Télé-Soins 811, en travaillant avec nos médecins, en travaillant à mettre en place un programme de sagesfemmes, en travaillant à mettre en place un programme de paramédicaux en soins avancés et en travaillant avec nos autres professionnels de la santé, tel que le personnel infirmier praticien. Nous voulons maximiser chaque professionnel de la santé afin de pouvoir offrir les soins primaires de base dans les collectivité et ainsi éviter les longues lignes d’attente dans nos hôpitaux.
Mr. Coon: In the meantime, the frustration and suffering in our ER departments go on. One of my constituents had to wait to be seen for 12 hours in extreme pain with a broken jaw. That same woman went back at another time and had to wait all night to have a severe nosebleed cauterized. When she next experienced a problem, abdominal pain, she decided not to go to the emergency room and to wait to see her doctor in four days. What happened? Her appendix burst. She could have died. We need to fix the problem in our emergency departments now. I agree that we need to address primary health care, absolutely. However, there needs to be a fix in our emergency departments now. Will the minister take action and instruct the regional health authorities to reduce emergency room wait times now?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: We have great men and women working in our health care system across this province. They are doing the best that they can. Every time that we bring an initiative forward, the opposition opposes it. If the opposition wants action to happen faster than it has been happening, the members opposite should stop opposing every single initiative that we bring forward. The opposition should help us move those initiatives forward. By moving these initiatives forward, we are going to build up that capacity for primary care. We are going to make sure that our health care system works together as opposed to working in silos. We are going to be able to make sure that all health care professionals in our system work to their full scope of practice and do what they are trained to do. However, every time that we bring forward initiatives, all that we get from the opposition are opposing points of view. The members opposite never want to see the system change. They do not want to evolve. If they would allow that change and that evolution to happen, we would improve primary care and we would reduce wait times.