N.B. integrates ambulance service with other primary health-care services

The New Brunswick government says it is integrating the province's ambulance service with other primary health-care services.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau announced Friday that Ambulance New Brunswick, the Extra-Mural home health care program and Tele-Care 8-1-1 will be merged into a new entitiy.

The new entity will be managed by Medavie Health Services New Brunswick, which already oversees the ambulance service.

The province says combining the resources will mean better co-ordination in the delivery of health care through a team approach.

"This is meant to enable New Brunswickers to stay in their own homes as long as possible, to receive greater help navigating the health-care system, and to experience greater continuity of care," the province said in a news release Friday.

"Other anticipated results include more person-centred care for patients, improved prevention and management of chronic conditions, more appropriate use of ambulance transportation, and fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations."

Reaction to announcement

Medavie CEO Bernard Lord, the former premier of New Brunswick, says they believe the changes are positive as New Brunswick prepares for the health-care needs of an aging population.

The move also received praise from the Canadian Medical Association, with past president Dr. Chris Simpson saying it will allow New Brunswick to deliver primary health care more efficiently, more cost-effectively, and with greater patient outcomes.

But not everyone thinks the move will be beneficial for New Brunswickers.

The Vitalité Health Network says it is disappointed with the decision to privatize the extra-mural program, saying it would be better for home care services to remain within the public system.

President and CEO Gilles Lanteigne says the privatization of home care is somewhat withdrawing a powerful tool from the network to achieve its mission, which is to excel in improving people's health.

"Splitting the provincial health system up into several components will make it increasingly difficult for us to achieve expected results, namely in terms of quality, continuity of care, effectiveness and efficiency," Lanteigne said in a statement.