Liberal leader says health care is New Brunswickers’ biggest concern

by | Mar 14, 2024

Susan Holt says there’s ‘no quick and easy solution,’ but the province needs immediate action

New Brunswick faces numerous challenges, but health care tops the list for most residents, said Liberal Leader Susan Holt during a recent visit to Woodstock.

A trip to Carleton County on Feb. 28 included visiting Central Carleton Nursing Home in Hartland and a coffee date with health-care workers at Tim Horton’s on Connell Street in Woodstock. She later attended the nomination meeting in Carleton-York, which chose businessman Chris Duffie as the riding’s Liberal candidate.

While at Tim’s, Holt sat down for a brief conversation with the River Valley Sun.

When asked what issue is on the minds of voters, the Liberal leader said everyone fears for the future of health care in the province. She said almost everyone has a horror story, whether it’s the ER crisis, the lack of a family doctor, wait times, or a bevy of other issues.

Holt said she hears similar fears among health-care workers who need immediate help.

She said health-care personnel at all levels need a seat at the table during discussions to improve the system.

“The first step is to recognize each and every health-care worker in the system today,” Holt said. “They feel unrespected and unheard.”

She said the shortage of health-care workers reflects poor recruitment and retention.

“We’ve made no real effort to retain the people we have,” Holt said. “Recruitment won’t work if people are leaving because of bad conditions.”

During visits to senior-care homes and other facilities, the Liberal leader said health-care workers complain about the lack of pay and respect.

While New Brunswick health-care faces numerous systemic problems, she said money is part of the problem.

“In some places, wages are too low to attract people to the profession,” Holt said. “We hear from health-care workers that they could do better financially at Costco or Walmart. And they won’t be crying in their car on the way home because they’re unable to deliver the care they want.”

She said workers stress the problems reach beyond wage levels.

“It’s about wanting to deliver good care to their neighbours and to New Brunswickers,” Holt said.

She said health-care workers lack the colleagues, the right equipment, spaces and policies to do that.

“It’s demoralizing,” Holt said.

The Liberal leader acknowledged that repairing the system would take time, money, and commitment from the government.

“There’s no quick and easy solution,” she said. “I think it starts with the culture shift of showing that respect and value.”

Holt said the health care system requires staffing, technology, and infrastructure upgrades, noting the many facilities that fall short of health and safety standards.

“But these changes are not fast,” she said. “We can’t build new senior-care facilities overnight. We can’t hire health-care workers overnight.”

While some improvements will take years, Holt said, the journey must begin immediately.

She said the ongoing efforts in Carleton North to secure provincial support for a collaborative medical clinic are an example of what should already be in place.

“We’ve been talking about a team-based primary care model for more than a decade,” she said. “Well, I wrote my first op-ed about it in 2010, and I wasn’t the first person to write about it.”

She said the medical society, nurses union, patient advocates, and all political parties agree with this model, but nothing gets done.

Holt said the Higgs government promised a series of collaborative clinics two budgets ago.

“Where are they?” she said. “We’re no farther ahead.”

She said it’s not a money issue. While these clinics require an immediate investment, the clinic model would be no more expensive and potentially less expensive than our current system to operate.

“In my mind it’s not a cost issue,” she said, “It’s a lack of ambition.”

The Liberal Leader cited the lack of housing as another crisis requiring immediate attention.

Holt said the Liberal election platform would include the return of the rent cap as a first step, noting that it works in other provinces.

She said a Liberal government would work with nonprofits to ensure the construction of genuinely affordable housing. She said the current government is only interested in collaborating with the private sector to provide a couple of affordable units in a massive residential development.

She said the government must invest in public housing, noting existing units are going unused because they need repairs as the waiting list grows longer.

While acknowledging that the Liberal election platform would include significant investment in health care, social development, housing, and education, she dismissed suggestions that their policies would drive up the debt.

She said she’s committed to balancing the budget and paying down the debt.

“It’s not all about how quickly we can pay off the mortgage, but it’s certainly not about how quickly we can spend all the money,” Holt said. “We’re going to balance the budget, we’re going to pay down the debt and we’re going to improve health-care services and education services. And you can do both.”

She said the Higgs government allowed millions of dollars of surplus to go to New York bankers rather than invest it in health care.

FOREST FIRE INDEX – click image for current status

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have successfully subscribed! A confirmation email has been sent to your email account. To complete your subscription, open the email and click on the confirmation link. (If you can't find it in your inbox, try your junk and spam folders.) If you'd like to receive our updates more than once a week, please click the "Manage your subscription" link at the bottom of your Newsletter.