Nurse Practitioners as One Solution to the New Brunswick Doctor Shortage

Fredericton – On Monday, April 21st the Government of New Brunswick announced the creation of a $300,000 pilot project designed to remove 2000 New Brunswickers from the physician waitlist. The New Brunswick Medical Society estimates that as many as 50,000 New Brunswickers are without access to primary care.

“This project represents mere tinkering at the edges of the system and devalues the expertise of Nurse Practitioners,” said David Coon, MLA- Fredericton South and Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick. “Given our current health crisis, we need to make better use of the Nurse Practitioners we have in this province to increase access to primary health care for our citizens.”

The pilot project will pay four family doctors to each hire a nurse practitioner in three cities. Changes to the system will now allow these Nurse Practitioners to bill Medicare for their services. According to Health Minister Boudreau the Nurse Practitioners will be paid at half the rate of a Physician.

“This is unacceptable,” said Marilyn Merritt-Gray, the Green Party Leader’s Health Critic. “Nurse Practitioners in other jurisdictions are paid no less than 85% what family physicians bill Medicare and they are not physician-hired.”

Fredericton has the largest number of people without access to primary care. There are 8,940 people in the city without a physician.

“We can do better,” said Coon. “In other parts of Canada, Nurse Practitioner-led clinics and Nurse Practitioner-led family practices have produced excellent health outcomes.”

The Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre is an example of a progressive clinic staffed and managed by a team of health care professionals, predominantly Nurse Practitioners.