The provincial government’s recent establishment of a shared services facility to consolidate non-clinical services might be a small step in the right direction but healthcare organizations not considering offshore outsourcing of some functions not directly related to patient care are missing out on significant cost savings. And the creation of two health authority agencies when only one is necessary is a gross indictment of government’s lack of determination in the face of political risk. The government’s rationale that two distinct languages and cultures need to be administered by separate organizations does not hold water. We do not have two parallel departments of Health Canada or Justice or Government Services even though language and culture are also important in those organizations. However, the existence of two agencies constantly invites comparisons in which invariably there is perceived to be a favoured organization.
Beyond cost management, our healthcare system should become an economic asset rather than a liability. Not only can healthcare help the New Brunswick citizens it serves to lead healthier and more productive lives but it also can support New Brunswick companies to compete globally in the rapidly expanding life sciences industry. With prudent investment from the private sector, assistance from industry and trade associations and limited involvement by government, we can position New Brunswick as possessing a competitive advantage in an industry that could create significant high-quality employment.
The transformational challenges facing our healthcare system are daunting and these challenges must be met with limited incremental funding in an increasingly competitive global economy and healthcare environment. The current economic situation is not conducive to large-scale expenditures, but it is a conspicuously propitious moment for us to manage what already is a significant cost challenge and review where government can provide value and where it is an obstacle. This task will require the establishment of a clear, consistent accountability framework supported by aligned incentives and reconciled value perspectives across our society. This change will be extraordinarily difficult but for the health of future generations. It cannot be avoided and it is already overdue.