At the end of October of this year, 12 physicians, all of them heads of their departments representing the majority of the medical staff in the Greater Fredericton Area, released to the media their views concerning the unfulfilled status of the expected Hybrid Operation Room, as part of the $200 million expansion of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital (DECH). We were disappointed that funding for this surgical suite was not part of the government’s capital budget announced this fall as the Hybrid OR at the DECH had long been expected to follow the renovations at the hospital, but that has changed with the government indicating it may go to Saint John instead, despite the space being ready in Fredericton.
While a “Hybrid OR” may imply a high-tech connotation, it is important to note that this form of surgical suite is actually a quite common housing of standard operative and imaging equipment. To be clear, this is not a case of Fredericton being supplied with new technology instead of, for example, Saint John. The hybrid OR is an established and common tool that will help alleviate pressing medical issues and should be approved for hospitals requiring it. We speak directly about the issues facing Fredericton.
A hybrid OR will considerably help the currently stressed radiology suite and will be highly valuable in assisting the casework of the medical fields of urology, OB/GYN and general surgery. The completed operating room is especially required by surgeons specializing in the vascular field. Vascular surgery is an integral part of a complex health care system. The vascular surgeon provides medical and procedure-based care representing a unique mix of medical, open surgical, and endovascular skills and fulfills a vital role in the continuum of care of these patients. As the DECH currently has two vascular surgeons on staff, this room is not only expected to be available, it is a normal requirement for their continued level of service delivery.
Along with the establishment of new health authority boards earlier this year, Health System Collaboration Councils were created as committees of the boards. Health Minister Bruce Fitch, the Council’s chairperson, has stated that discussion of hybrid operation room proposals has been referred to the Council for a decision. As the 12 physicians stated, the costs of inaction are accumulating.
The decision placed before the council is not simply a question of the DECH offering vascular surgery in the future. Through interviews with the medical community, it is clear that the service of a vascular surgeon is required in the hospital by practically every other surgical specialty. Vascular surgeons must be present or on call for emergencies that can arise during most surgeries from the routine to the highly specialized.
Beyond the value of their own specialty, assuring that we retain the vascular surgeons’ ability to work and remain in Fredericton is paramount due to their essential resource to other surgical specialties. If Fredericton was to lose its current allotment of vascular surgeons, the future of other physicians and the medical procedures available at the DECH will be directly threatened.
For years the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and numerous other partner organizations have passionately worked to attract and retain medical professionals to the Fredericton area. Our involvement in physician recruitment and retention over the previous decade include events such as our annual medical resident reception or physician appreciation celebration, small business training sessions for family residents and other advocacy efforts. Recruitment and retention efforts now must also include supplying those who are here, who are dedicated, and who want to serve their patients, with the tools they need to do their job.
Fredericton is a rapidly growing city and vascular surgery with the routine equipment required by the field is not a luxury, it is a necessity that is also required by almost all other surgical specialties. The uncertainty regarding the completion of the planned Hybrid OR at the DECH, as was expected by most, may begin to cause doubt amongst Fredericton physicians about the future of the hospital as effectively equipped for the demand of a growing city. Should the committee decline the Hybrid OR option, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce joins the physicians of this city in asking what the plan is going forward.
As we continue our role in helping to attract and retain physicians to the city of Fredericton, we hope the Government of New Brunswick will present clear indications to those medical professionals that their roles here will be supported with the resources they require for this thriving and diverse population. To this specific issue stated today, through your previous investments, the space has been built, and the tools are now required by the medical professionals serving our community.
Morgan Peters is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited business organization with more than 1,000 members, that is an actively engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the local business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’.