Transformational changes put patients first (08/03/11)

NB 299

March 11, 2008

FREDERICTON (CNB) - Transformational changes designed to put the needs of patients first were announced today by Health Minister Michael Murphy.


The changes involve:

  • a transition, beginning immediately, from eight Regional Health Authorities to two. The transition will be complete by Sept. 1;
  • the creation of the New Brunswick Health Council, with a dual mandate to provide residents with opportunities for meaningful input and dialogue on health matters, and to ensure that the health-care system is accountable to New Brunswickers; and
  • the consolidation, under a new public sector company, of selected non-clinical services now carried out by the health authorities.

"These changes will result in a more effective, adaptive and accountable health care system - one that contributes to our goal of a self-sufficient New Brunswick," Murphy said. "We're removing barriers to patient care that have existed between regions; ensuring that residents are engaged in their health-care system and know how it is performing; and directing more of our health budget into patient care, with less into administrative and non-clinical functions.

Murphy said that clinical services will be maintained and enhanced as the system transitions to two Regional Health Authorities.

"All our hospitals and beds will stay open and all our clinical services and programs will be maintained," Murphy said. "This will improve patient care by removing barriers that now exist between regions."

Murphy said that having two Regional Health Authorities will better meet the clinical needs of New Brunswickers by providing them with access to a larger network of services and health-care providers within their health region, and by removing administrative barriers to care between regions. It also addresses the duplication of backroom functions within the Regional Health Authorities, and the unhealthy competition that exists among the eight health authorities.

Murphy said that the individuals who have served on the boards of the Regional Health Authorities are not responsible for the problems in the system.

"I think they have done their best within a faulty system, and I am grateful to them for their voluntary service," Murphy said. "But after listening to New Brunswickers and viewing the situation myself for more than a year, I have concluded that the design of the system was flawed from the outset. It did not promote partnership or a consistent level of care that New Brunswickers deserve.

"New Brunswickers must receive the same high level of care no matter where they live," Murphy said. "Today, we have wait lists for services that are a year in one part of the province and only a few weeks in another area. We have certain drugs that are being paid for publicly in one region but not in another. This is not acceptable to me as minister of health."

Regional Health Authority A, which will be based in Bathurst, will be responsible for providing services in the areas formerly served by Regional Health Authority 1 (Beauséjour), Regional Health Authority 4 (Edmundston), Regional Health Authority 5 (Campbellton), and Regional Health Authority 6 (Bathurst). Andrée Robichaud, who has served as associate deputy minister of health, was named by Murphy as chief executive officer of Regional Health Authority A. Aldéa Landry of Moncton is chair of the board of directors.

Regional Health Authority B will be based in Miramichi, and will be responsible for the areas formerly served by Regional Health Authority 1 South-East, Regional Health Authority 2 (Saint John), Regional Health Authority 3 (Fredericton), and Regional Health Authority 7 (Miramichi). Donn Peters, formerly CEO of the South-East Regional Health Authority, will be CEO of Regional Health Authority B. John Laidlaw of Saint John is chair of the board of directors.

Each Regional Health Authority will have 17 voting members who will be selected based on pre-established competencies and skills, and appointed by lieutenant-governor in council. As a result, there will be no Regional Health Authority elections this May as had been scheduled.

Board members of the two new Regional Health Authorities will be compensated for their service.

"This move to competency-based professional boards mirrors what is happening across the country with a growing number of not-for-profit and governmental organizations," Murphy said. "We need people with the right skill sets to carry out governance of our $2-billion health system."

Murphy said that the creation of the New Brunswick Health Council fulfils a commitment made in the government's Charter for Change.

"The independent health council will ensure that New Brunswickers have a real voice on health care, and will keep them fully informed on the performance of the health system," Murphy said. "The health council doesn't provide direct health services to New Brunswickers, and this guarantees that it can present an unbiased view of how well or how poorly the health system is serving New Brunswickers."

The health council will be headquartered in Moncton and will have a board of directors with up to 16 members, of whom half will be community representatives, and half will represent policy makers, health managers, health professionals and academic institutions. The chair of the council is Rino Volpé, while Stéphane Robichaud, formerly a vice-president with the Beauséjour Regional Health Authority, is health council CEO.

Murphy also announced the creation of a new public sector company to assume responsibility for a variety of non-clinical services now carried out by the Regional Health Authorities. The company will be based in Saint John. Gordon Gilman, formerly an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Health, will be CEO, while Roxanne Fairweather of Saint John was named chair of the board of directors.

A non-clinical review examined the $250 million spent annually by Regional Health Authorities on goods and services not directly related to providing clinical care.

"As this review showed, we have costly duplication of non-clinical services in all health regions," Murphy said. "For example, there are eight individually managed purchasing departments and eight payroll departments."

Non-clinical services being transferred to the new shared services company are:

Year 1:

  • Materials management; and
  • Regional Health Authority and applicable Department of Health information technology services.

Year 2:

  • Finance/payroll;
  • Telecommunications;
  • Biomedical engineering; and
  • Energy retrofitting.

Year 3:

  • Laundry

Savings will be realized from consolidating the management of services, standardizing processes and products, and leveraging greater critical mass in the procurement of goods and services.

"I want to make very clear that we are not looking at reducing jobs to achieve major savings," Murphy said. "While there will be a minimal number of job reductions over time, this will be done through retraining and attrition."

The change is expected to generate savings of $4.6 million a year within three years, and $19.4 million annually within five years. Savings will be directed into new and enhanced information and technology systems, including those needed to create the One Patient One Record vision.

All existing contracts with employees and suppliers will be honoured, and local purchasing will continue at current levels.

Murphy said that the structural changes will lay the groundwork for the introduction of a new health plan in a few weeks.

For more information on these changes, visit the Department of Health website at


MEDIA CONTACT: Johanne Le Blanc, communications, Health, 506-457-3513.