14 December 2023
Hon. Bruce Fitch
Minister of Health
Province of New Brunswick
P. O. Box 5100
Dear Minister Fitch
Re: Hybrid OR – Dr Everett Chalmers Hospital
I am writing today due to the concerning situation regarding the future of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and medical services in Fredericton. The availability of timely and effective healthcare is a key issue for the business community in Fredericton and throughout New Brunswick and now our local healthcare seems to be approaching a potential turning point.
At the end of October of this year, twelve 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. In response to the ongoing issue, and hopes that the recent capital budget would confirm the funding for this project, the government has stated that it will not make the decision as to funding and completion of this project, confirmed via spokesperson that the “discussion of hybrid operation room proposals has been referred to New Brunswick’s Health System Collaboration Council”.
To begin, a “Hybrid O.R.” certainly has a “high-tech” connotation to it, but it is important to be clear that this form of surgical suite is in fact a very common housing of standard operative and imaging equipment. 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 fulfill 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.
After researching the issue, it became apparent that 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. This has been verified via academic publications, confirming that “the value of vascular surgeons has become apparent in other specialities, such as providing intraoperative rescue services for uncontrolled hemorrhage and assisting with complex reconstructive surgery.”
Beyond the value of their own speciality, assuring that we retain the vascular surgeons’ ability to work and remain in Fredericton is paramount due to their “essential resource to other surgical specialities, providing exposure, control of hemorrhage, and vascular reconstructions, often in emergent situations.” It is a certainty, therefore, that 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, our 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 a vascular surgeon 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 specialities. 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 is the plan 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.
With this completed commitment we can continue to build the necessary momentum and grow our community, and through it our province.
Morgan Peters, CEO
Fredericton Chamber of Commerce
cc: Hon. Blaine Higgs, Premier, Province of New Brunswick
cc: Hon. Jill Green, Minister of Social Development, Minister responsible for the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation, Minister responsible for the New Brunswick Housing Corporation, MLA Fredericton North
cc: Hon. Richard Ames, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, MLA Carleton – York
cc: Hon. Kris Austin, Minister of Public Safety, MLA Fredericton – Grand Lake
cc: Jeff Carr, MLA New Maryland – Sunbury
cc: Ross Wetmore, MLA Gagetown – Petitcodiac
cc: Ryan Cullins, MLA Fredericton – York
cc: David Coon, Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick, MLA Fredericton South
cc: Susan Holt, Leader of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick, MLA Bathurst East – Nepisiguit – Saint-Isidore
cc: Dominic Cardy, MLA Fredericton West – Hanwell
cc: Margaret Melanson, Interim President and CEO, Horizon Health Network
 “Fitch’s budget hints about operating room fall flat,” Telegraph-Journal, Andrew Waugh, Nov. 30th, accessed on December 8, 2023, accessed: https://tj.news/new-brunswick/fitchs-budget-hints-about-operating-room-fall-flat
 Richard Powell, et al. “The value of the modern vascular surgeon to the health care system: A report from the Society for Vascular Surgery Valuation Work Group,” for
Journal of Vascular Surgery, Volume 73, Issue 2, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvs.2020.05.056., 367.
 Richard Powell, et al. 359.
 Power, et al, 360.
 Vamsi K. Potluri, MD, et al. “Characterizing the geographic distribution of vascular surgeons in the United States,” Journal of Vascular Surgery, v77, n1, (Jan 2023), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvs.2022.09.015
 Power, et al., 362.