NB doctors suspended for not being vaccinated are allowed to resume practice

A handful of New Brunswick doctors who were suspended more than four months ago for failing to vaccinate against COVID-19 or failing to provide proof can resume practicing medicine.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick has reinstated five of the nine physicians, including one specialist and four family physicians, Registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg confirmed Wednesday.

Two other specialists are expected to be reinstated on Thursday, he said.

A family doctor has decided to leave the province.

The college has yet to hear from the other family physician if he plans to return to practice, Schollenberg said.

When doctors were suspended, Schollenberg said doctors had to lead by example and not put their patients’ health at risk.

“You can’t encourage patients to get vaccinated if you don’t get vaccinated yourself,” he said at the time.

On Wednesday, he said he still believed it was true.

“I have a strong personal opinion on this,” he said. “But on the other hand…there are a lot of people who make these decisions and have a certain role, and there comes a time when you can’t resist everything that’s going on.”

He attributed the policy reversal to a change in policy within regional health authorities.

“Late Friday afternoon we received a note from someone saying they were removing all of their requirements. So we realized we couldn’t justify continuing to suspend these doctors.”

The college is still checking proof of vaccination for potential new doctors, Registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg said, but that too could change. (Radio Canada)

Doctors were suspended Nov. 30 at midnight at the request of hospitals, Schollenberg said, a decision that left their patients scrambling to find care in a province already desperate for more doctors.

The number of patients affected is not known. Approximately 40,000 people are on Patient Access New Brunswick’s waiting list for a primary care provider.

Seven of the suspended doctors worked at Horizon Health Network, while the other two worked at Vitalité Health Network, Schollenberg said.

Horizon officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Government policy change comes into effect on April 11

The about-face comes after New Brunswick announced on Friday it was dropping its vaccination mandate for provincial government employees in vulnerable sectors, including health care, effective April 11.

Regional Health Authority and Extra-Mural/Ambulance NB employees who have been placed on unpaid leave for failing to provide proof of vaccination may return to work if they follow all of the mitigations required by their employer, as directed by Public Health, until they are fully immunized.

The change also applies to nursing homes and adult residential facilities approved by the Department of Social Development.

New Brunswick is the only province that has suspended doctors for failing to provide proof of vaccination, according to Schollenberg.

“We are the only province where every doctor has a hospital responsibility,” he said.

“So the other provinces just said, ‘Doctors just can’t go to the hospital’. But most of them could still work just fine. Well, we don’t have that approach here. If you can’t go to the hospital, you can’t work in your office.

Doctors should be vaccinated, says medical society

When asked if new doctors who wish to practice in New Brunswick will be required to provide proof of vaccination, Schollenberg replied: “Current doctors do not need to be vaccinated. We always check new applicants , but haven’t made any changes to it yet.”

When asked if that too might change, he replied, “It might, but we haven’t had one yet. One thing at a time.”

The New Brunswick Medical Society, which represents more than 2,000 physicians, “would support maintaining the college’s current policy,” said president Dr. Mark MacMillan.

As health care providers, we care for the most vulnerable of our citizens.​​– Mark MacMillan, President of the New Brunswick Medical Society

The organization continues to believe that all physicians should be vaccinated.

“Whether or not this is a mandatory requirement, our position is that all New Brunswickers, including healthcare workers, should follow the scientific evidence, which shows that vaccination is the best way to stay safe. protect against serious consequences related to COVID-19,” MacMillan said in an emailed statement.

“As healthcare providers, we care for the most vulnerable of our citizens. If we want to encourage people to get vaccinated to better protect themselves and others, we need to lead by example.”

He noted that 99.5% of doctors are vaccinated.

“We have in the strongest possible terms encouraged unvaccinated physicians to follow the science that has guided their careers and get vaccinated.”

There is “compelling evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in reducing hospitalization and death rates,” he added.