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Dr. Paula Keating is the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society. Image: Submitted

N.B. physicians disappointed with provincial budget

By Brad Perry Mar 21, 2024 | 6:31 AM

Physicians in New Brunswick are expressing disappointment with the Higgs government’s latest budget.

The $13.3-billion budget, unveiled on Tuesday, allocates a record nearly $3.8 billion toward health care.

But Dr. Paula Keating, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said government has effectively frozen health-care spending.

The government plans to spend $214 million more in 2024-25 than what it budgeted for the current fiscal year, though year-end expenses are projected to come in around $212 million over budget.

“While we appreciate that the elimination of expenses such as travel nurses may allow for certain additional investments, this budget is far from the commitment to health system transformation that health-care professionals were hoping to see,” Keating said in an email to our newsroom.

In particular, Keating said she was surprised by the lack of any significant retention initiatives given the health human resource challenges being faced in the province.

The president also said that provincial investments targeted at covering inflation are “disappointing low.”

“While it represents a significant portion of the budget, the $70 million for regional health authorities is barely sufficient to maintain the status quo, and anyone who has visited a hospital in recent years knows the status quo is not an acceptable goal,” said Keating.

Despite their disappointment, the president said they are pleased to have several pressing issued recognized in the budget.

New Brunswick plans to spend nearly $23 million to improve the province’s health technology infrastructure, which Keating said is about 20 years overdue.

She said they are also encouraged to see $20 million for collaborative primary care clinics, although she noted it is “significant less” than what is needed.

“It is somewhat concerning, however, that no parameters or benchmarks have been indicated to guide these investments. Hopefully government will take a collaborative approach with stakeholders in determining how best to allocate these funds,” said Keating.

Keating said they are also glad to see the province plans to increase the taxation of vaping products.