Question Period: Nurse Practitioners – April 21, 2015

Mr. Coon: My question is for the Minister of Health. The minister is aiming to cut 10% of the budget of the Department of Health. This is supposed to be a strategic review, not an exercise in aiming for arbitrarily determined cuts.

There are 50 000 New Brunswickers lacking a family doctor right now, yet the number of nurse practitioners seeking work could take 18 000 people off the waiting list and cut our health costs at the same time. This would reduce health costs while providing primary health care for thousands of New Brunswickers needing it. Will the minister make the strategic decision to reallocate money from the Medicare budget to fund group practices for nurse practitioners?


Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I thank the member opposite for the question. Just to be clear, in the exercise that was conducted last week as part of the Strategic Program Review, we were asking all departments to come forward with options that could equate to 10%. It does not mean that there is going to be a 10% cut across the board. I just wanted to provide clarity on that.

In terms of primary care and some of the challenges that the member opposite has just listed, I encourage him . . . As soon as we are finished with routine business, we will be moving into estimates and the Department of Health will be the first department up. I think there are quite a few items in my speech that will please the member considerably, considering the question he just pointed out.

Mr. Coon: There are a growing number of nurse practitioners who are unable to practice because the minister is holding out, hoping against hope that he will be able to recruit enough physicians to provide access to primary health care for people waiting on the list.

Les infirmières et infirmiers praticiens peuvent diagnostiquer des maladies, ordonner des tests, prescrire des médicaments et traiter les maladies. Tandis que des milliers de familles sont sans médecin de famille, des infirmières et infirmiers praticiens doivent quitter la province pour trouver un employ.

There are 20 more nurse practitioners who will graduate this fall from UNB and another 7 from the Université de Moncton. What is the minister’s plan to ensure that these nurse practitioners, when they graduate, can provide primary health care to New Brunswickers stuck on waiting lists for doctors who may never materialize?

L’hon. M. Boudreau : Comme je l’ai indiqué, je pense que le député de l’opposition va être très content du discours que je vais prononcer prochainement, c’est-à-dire lorsque nous allons débuter l’étude des prévisions budgétaires du ministère de la Santé.

Pour ce qui est de la question des soins primaires, de la question des infirmières et infirmiers praticiens et de la question d’augmenter l’accessibilité à des médecins de famille, je pense que le député va trouver plusieurs éléments satisfaisants dans nos prévisions. Souhaitons qu’il pourra nous aider à faire la promotion de ces décisions et qu’il les applaudira.

Mr. Coon: The government’s platform committed to improving access to primary care by maximizing the use of health professionals such as nurse practitioners and midwives. The commitment was to ensure that these health professionals would be functioning to their full scope of training. This is clearly not the case for nurse practitioners, and it is nonexistent for midwives, as there is not a single midwife working in New Brunswick today. It would be strategic to have midwives attending births instead of OB/GYNs. It would be less costly, and it would result in better long-term health outcomes for moms and babies, given the community care the midwives provide before, during, and after birth.

What is the minister’s plan to maximize the use of midwives in New Brunswick and make strategic reductions in the health care budget that way?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Again, I do not want to get ahead of my budget estimates speech, which is coming up a little later on today. A lot of the issues that the member opposite is raising are issues that we are going to be addressing. We have already moved on many of our commitments. There are 24 commitments in the platform that fall under the responsibility of the Department of Health, many of which we have acted on already and many of which we will be acting on today as we release our estimates speech and details.

Just yesterday, we announced the creation of a frontline medical advisory committee, which was something that had been brought forward by my colleague when he was in opposition. It made it into the platform, and it was something that we acted on yesterday. We have announced it. It is a promise made and a promise kept, and more promises are going to be kept in the speech today.


April 21, 2015 / le 21 avril 2015