N.B. earmarks $186 million for four major hospital projects
FREDERICTON -- After almost a year on hold, the New Brunswick government is going ahead with $186 million worth of capital projects.
That includes big money for four hospitals – but only one of them in the northern part of the province.
It was funding announced almost three years ago, but last year, the Blaine Higgs government halted the construction of a new, state-of-the-art intensive care unit and oncology unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
They also delayed a $40 million coronary care unit at the Moncton Hospital
"Both those items are legitimate and needed, but we were unable to do them last year," said New Brunswick Health Minister Ted Flemming.
But on Wednesday, they gave them the go-ahead –- again -- along with several other healthcare projects:
- Saint John Regional Hospital will now see $91 million for their new ICU and oncology unit;
- $54.7 million for the Moncton hospital to construct its coronary care unit, as well as a maternal newborn unit;
- $25 million set aside for renovations at Fredericton's Chalmers Hospital
- $16 million for renovations at Bathurst's Chaleur Regional Hospital.
Not addressed today was funding for Campbellton's Youth Mental Health Centre, 90 per cent completed.
"There is money in the budget for that, and I will be dealing with that before the end of the week," Flemming said.
Green Party MLA Megan Mitton is concerned about two hospitals that have been plagued by a lack of staff, problems that have interrupted services over the past year.
"In terms of the human resources issue, it'd be nice to hear the plan from the minister," Mitton said.
On Wednesday, Horizon Health announced that the Upper River Valley Hospital will be unable to deliver babies on Friday because they don't have a surgeon able to perform C-sections.
So, now that spending for physical buildings has been announced, some say the next step is a recruitment plan.
"There have been some frustrations in the system recently," said Dr. Chris Goodyear, the president of the Medical Society of New Brunswick. "There was recently a slow-down in Saint John because of nurses that have left the specialized positions in the OR to take on other positions in the hospital."
In an interview on surgical wait-times, the medical society says burnout of staff is a constant concern.
"Because when people burnout they leave the system, and these nurses, LPNs are highly specialized, highly trained, who work in the OR environment, and we can't afford to lose them because it takes so long to train new ones," said Goodyear.
The minister says staffing is an issue across the province and he's working with the health authorities to make improvements.
More details on the future of Campbellton's Youth Mental Health Centre are expected at some point this week.