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CMA, NBMS applaud call for national debate on health care

The CMA and New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) want to take a federal minister up on his suggestion that the country launch a "national debate" on health care.

Keith Ashfield, a Conservative MP from Fredericton who serves as fisheries and oceans minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, suggested the need for such a debate during an April editorial board meeting with the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, NB. "We need a national debate," the Fredericton MP said. "I think there is an opportunity for us to be frank with one another and discuss the issues around health care and where it is going in this country.

"Look at the budgets of each and every province," he added. "In New Brunswick, the health care system is in excess of 40% of the total budget. How long is that going to be sustainable?"

CMA President Anna Reid welcomed his observations.

"The federal government is focused on creating a strong economy, but that can't be achieved if we don't have a healthy population - the two go hand-in-hand. What is needed now is vision, collaboration, leadership and action from everyone involved. We are calling on provincial and federal governments to engage."

NBMS President Robert Desjardins said recent provincial budget cuts have provided a wake-up call for New Brunswick physicians. "We have seen exploding patient demand due to long-term demographic trends and we've seen short-term, short-sighted responses. Partnership and dialogue are the only way to transformative solutions."

Desjardins pointed out that the province's recent budget cut and capped medical services payments for patient care, and also planned for a "zero increase in health spending, something not seen in the province in almost 20 years."

He described New Brunswick's cap on medical services as "impulsive" and said the province instead needed a long-term plan focused on improved primary and home care, more use of electronic medical records and better collaboration among health professionals.

"There needs to be less time spent looking for reasons not to transform health care and more time getting on with it," Reid concluded.

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