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Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association says health boards could work, in theory

Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association president Dr. Tracey Bridger (left) and past-president Dr. Lynn Dwyer say spending restraint in health care needs careful consideration.
Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association president Dr. Tracey Bridger (left) and past-president Dr. Lynn Dwyer say spending restraint in health care needs careful consideration. - David Maher

Doctors' group wants key commitments from candidates

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A health care board as described by Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie could work, but the government has to have the final say, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA).

Just before the election writ was dropped, Crosbie described a “quasi-judicial board,” similar to the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB), to make decisions on health care spending.

While the idea has some precedent across the country — in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia — NLMA president Dr. Tracey Bridger says such a board should not be the final authority on health care spending.

“Doctors need to be at the table, as well as other health care professionals and patient and family groups, to help government come up with a plan. Ultimately, they decide what they’re going to spend, but the plan is what they have gotten from the experts,” said Bridger.

“You need to have – and we’re fortunate, we have a good working relationship with the government – but you would definitely need to have the direct link with government.”

In essence, a health care oversight board could work, but it would need to make recommendations to a minister, and not have the final say in health care spending, she said.

The NLMA has released a series of recommendations it wants all political parties to commit to.

“If spending restraint becomes necessary in the health sector, we call on the leaders to review the health care system with clear delineations of the roles of every health care facility,” said Bridger.

One of the recommendations is about a “blended capitation” model for physician payments.

“With blended capitation, patients would be attached to a practice, and the physician would be paid X number of dollars to have those patients in their practice,” said Bridger.

In other words, a physician would get a base level of pay for each patient they’re taking care of, and get additional payments for each time a patient is treated, through MCP. Bridger says that would help offer stability to physicians around the province.

Physician retention is key for the future of health care in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the association.

Right now, 35 per cent of the population is without a family doctor. There are currently 1,164 full-time practicing doctors in the province. Of those, 636 are Memorial University graduates. According to self-reported data from physicians, in the last three years just 82 MUN med school graduates started practicing medicine in this province.

The NLMA has distributed its recommendations to each party and will post each party’s response on the NLMA website.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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