Green Party would establish community health centres throughout the province

29 JUNE 2010

At its policy meeting in Moncton last Saturday, the New Brunswick Green Party adopted a suite of health-related policies, including the establishment throughout the province of collaborative care clinics as the most effective method of providing health care services to all New Brunswickers.

The health policy was authored by Green Party Health Critic and nominated candidate in Fredericton-Silverwood Jim Wolstenholme. Wolstenholme was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan and CEO of the Miramichi Health Authority. The policy reflects the recommendations of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s model of a patient-centered “medical home” that provides collaborative, accessible and lifelong care to people.

In a news release Wolstenholme said, “Having collaborative-care clinics, or community health centres as they are often called, is what new medical graduates are looking for as a preferred type of practice. We improve our chances of recruiting them if we make this model available. While the recruitment advantages are important, however, the real advantages of collaborative-care clinics are for patients.”

The NB Green Party policy includes a detailed plan for a province-wide network of 30 to 50 Community Health Centres. Such a centre would serve a range of 15-25,000 people. Each centre would offer primary health care, lifestyles counseling and chronic disease management. Extended hours of operation would ensure continuity of care which doesn’t happen when patients have to seek service in hospital emergency departments and walk-in clinics. Core staff would include family doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, nutritionists, respiratory technologists, health educators, occupational therapists and pharmacists. Alternative health professionals such as naturopaths and homeopaths would also be considered.

“Establishing these centres would not require any additional funding beyond existing Medicare billing and regional health authority budgets. In the medium and long term, the centres will reduce health care costs,” said Wolstenholme. “By supporting people to improve their lifestyles, the population will become more healthy and less in need of health care services. By providing timely access to primary care, health issues will be addressed earlier before complications arise that require more intensive, costly services. Providing chronic disease management for such conditions as diabetes, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will reduce the number of people who are admitted to hospital because their conditions are inadequately controlled.”

Wolstenholme commented on a recent commitment by Progressive Conservative leader David Alward to establish a community health clinic in Fredericton. “This concept is nothing new in other provinces, but in New Brunswick we only hear about intentions at election time and then nothing happens. David Alward hasn’t presented any ideas about what these clinics should provide, how many of them there should be and what the impact will be on the cost of health care. The Green Party’s policy is evidence-based, comprehensive, and provides the first step in making New Brunswickers healthier and getting health care costs under control.”