FREDERICTON (GNB) – New Brunswickers now have additional options to get care in the community for their more pressing health needs.

Through a partnership involving the Department of Health, regional health authorities, Extra-Mural/Ambulance New Brunswick, and community health providers, primary health-care options have been expanded so that New Brunswickers do not need to go to the emergency room for care that can be delivered in the community.

“Despite the pandemic, we have stayed focused on improving our health-care system for the long term and accelerated our work on the health plan we launched in November to improve options to community care,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “Effective today, we are giving you more options for better care, with easier access and faster service.”

The province’s hospitals are offering urgent and emergency services only as they deal with demands resulting from the Omicron variant. The government estimates about 60 per cent of New Brunswick’s typical emergency department patients could be treated in a community setting if more timely access were available.

This project advances commitments in the health plan to improve access to primary health care and addiction and mental health services, and to make better use of all health professionals across the province, including family doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

“These changes will allow us to address the emergency department crisis while also evaluating new options for care and determining what works best for New Brunswickers when it comes to accessing health-care services,” said Shephard. “We have worked quickly to implement these changes and expect there to be some bumps along the road, but we will seek feedback and improve as we work to strengthen health-care services, now and into the future.”

In an emergency, people should still call 911. However, starting Monday, Jan. 31, paramedics will use their clinical judgement to determine whether transport to the hospital is required or if other options are better suited to the patient’s needs.

People with a family doctor or nurse practitioner needing access to general health-care services should continue to contact their provider first. If an appointment cannot be made in a timely way and the health need is pressing, other options are available before visiting the emergency department:

Pharmacists – Pharmacists can now renew many prescriptions, regardless of whether the patient has a primary care provider. They can answer questions about medications; prescribe treatment for minor conditions, including urinary tract infections, skin conditions and fungal infections; and answer questions about vaccinations.

Tele-Care 811 – New Brunswickers can call 811 at any time, day or night, to receive support from a nurse and get a referral to additional services in their communities. The Tele-Care 811 service has been expanded to include in-person community appointments and virtual appointments that can be accessed within 24 hours.

Walk-in clinics and virtual walk-in clinics, such as eVisitNB – Walk-in clinics and virtual walk-in clinics can provide a consultation with a nurse practitioner or doctor for common illnesses, injuries, infections, mental health conditions and general health concerns. The services of eVisitNB are being offered at no charge to anyone with a valid New Brunswick medicare card.

Addiction and mental health clinics – A new service delivery model called one-at-a-time therapy is now available in most community mental health centres. These services aim to improve access and reduce wait times, and are available by appointment or on a walk-in basis. More information on resources for mental health and substance use is available through Bridge the gApp.