Thursday, March 13, 2008

Change to Health Care System Unsettling says Saint John Board of Trade

The Saint John Board of Trade has reservations regarding some of the transformational changes announced earlier this week by the Minister of Health, The Honourable Michael Murphy.  “We are pleased that the consolidation of selected non-clinical services under a new public sector company.  That will most certainly build efficiencies into the health system and reduce infrastructure costs” said Nathalie Godbout, Chair of the Saint John Board of Trade.  “We do, however, have some concerns surrounding the announced changes to the way health care will be administered in New Brunswick.”

“This move from eight to two Regional Health Authorities within several months is an unsettling measure that is going to be challenging and problematic” Godbout stated.  “As a business community, we need more detail regarding how this governance structure will meet the present and future needs of the Saint John community and its medical professionals” said Godbout.

“With no local Board or CEO, we are concerned that these changes will mean a loss of local autonomy for this region’s hospitals” continued Godbout.  “Meanwhile, doctors and medical staff who require rapid responses to unique situations will face challenges if reporting to a centralized body in another part of the province, with no clear explanation as to how this will improve efficiency and cost.  Whatever the details are surrounding this plan, one must take into consideration the very basic need for local autonomy in the day-to-day management of hospitals.”

The Board of Trade is also seeking clarity on other related issues, such as:
• The impact this could have on recruitment and retention of doctors and other health professionals;
• Potential impact on the new Anglophone medical school;
• How the implementation of the new trauma system may be impacted;
• The impact on community foundations and fundraising efforts should be clarified, as fundraising efforts are ongoing.  Several large events are held each year in support of the Regional Hospital and St. Joseph’s.  What will happen to these funds:  will they stay in the community or will they be divided among various hospitals in the region?  Community fundraising, through the support of the Foundation, the Board and administration, has helped make our regional hospital a leader in innovation and patient care;
• What will be the requirements for, and application process of the Health Council members?
• Do the savings the government is proposing ($20 million in 5 years on a $2.2 billion budget=1%) warrant such a drastic move?

Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation is an integral part of our community and our largest employer.  The answers to these questions are crucial with the anticipated growth that is projected for our community.  “Our members need to know that this new system will work effectively for greater Saint John before we are prepared to support it.”

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