Thursday, January 8, 2015

People make the difference in New Brunswick

Spending millions on infrastructure is part of the provincial government's plan to improve New Brunswick. In fact, it was one of the most discussed topics during the September election.

While improving highways and aging buildings as well as construction of new ones is a need, we must not lose sight of what makes New Brunswick work - our people. The province is built on the backs of its hardworking residents, many of whom are members of the New Brunswick Union (NBU).

While bricks and mortar are important, it's the people who work within those buildings and on the roads that are essential to this province.

Take for instance the health care sector. While the province recently announced plans to construct a mental health treatment centre for youth, the questions remains how will the facility cut down on the wait times currently facing the system. In 2012, The Daily Gleaner reported an eight-month wait list for children to get into the mental health centre.

Without an increase in staff to tackle long wait lists, a new centre may not result in anything more than shifting the current problems to a new building.

The lack of resources, particularly in staffing, has shown up in other areas of the health care system. In 2013, 500 patients in need of physiotherapy at the Miramichi Regional Hospital were encouraged to find their own services outside the system due to staffing shortages.

The ramifications of these issues are huge for patients, staff and the province. For patients, not being treated in a timely manner can result in conditions worsening and a person's health deteriorating.  The strain on the patient and family will likely increase, which could result in more problems.

For staff, it makes doing their job very difficult. Caseloads are heavier and patients' issues can be much more severe as the backlog leads to worsened conditions. This places a large amount of strain on staff, both physically and mentally. As well, patient frustration with the health care system is sometimes directed at staff.

As for the province, the worse the problem gets, the more it costs to fix it. The province is in a tough economic situation, but the costs of a reactive health care system - which is essentially putting out fires each day and the one we currently operate under in NB - is much higher than a preventative model. In order to work towards a preventative model, the current backlog needs to be reduced, new and innovative ways to treat patients must be found and New Brunswickers  need to be educated on the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

We can achieve this by making sure we have enough qualified people working in the health care system, not the minimum needed to maintain the status quo.

Bricks and mortar are good, but to truly help the people of New Brunswick we need more qualified professionals working inside those buildings.