SACKVILLE, N.B. -- Access to health care has been an issue since long before the pandemic, especially in rural areas of the Maritimes.

Now, as New Brunswick considers health care reform, smaller communities are making their case for more doctors and other professionals.

The town of Sackville, N.B. is facing the challenges that many communities face when it comes to medical resources.

The Deputy Mayor says there’s currently a shortage, and he’s calling on the province’s health minister to provide more health care workers in their area.

“Recruitment is something we want to be involved in, and this can work, I think,” says Ron Aiken.

The doctor shortage in New Brunswick has been well-discussed, but Aiken says Sackville also has a shortage of nurses and lab technicians.

Those staffing shortages have forced their local hospital to temporarily close at times, leading patients to visit out of town hospitals for treatments.

“If somebody comes in with back pain, there could be a dozen things causing it,” says Aiken. “If we had, for example, and MRI here, we could do the test, figure out what’s wrong, rather than put the person in an ambulance, send them to Moncton, have them wait there with the ambulance crew, and then send them back.”

The province is currently moving forward with health care reform consultations, and the health minister is promising improvements.

“We are actively engaging physicians on an ongoing basis. It happens every day.” says New Brunswick health minister Dorothy Shephard. “I just had a meeting this morning with a community in their efforts to recruit physicians.”

In April, Shephard agreed to cut the long list of patients waiting to see a family doctor, by recruiting enough doctors and nurses to fill the gaps within the next six months.

The New Brunswick Medical Society says it will be a challenge to recruit 115 doctors to work in the province, especially in rural areas where there is an increasing need.

“We hope that our success is actually going to allow us to perhaps recruit more individuals post-COVID,” says Dr. Jeff Steeves, President of the New Brunswick Medical Society. “That they’re going to see some of the advantages of living in a smaller province.”