These days when we talk about health care, the focus is on containing the escalating costs or increasing the quality and effectiveness of delivery in light of an aging population. At the same time, we shouldn't forget the economic impact of this industry. Health care is a very important economic engine for New Brunswick and for many of its communities. In Saint John and Moncton, for example, health care is the largest sector of the economy by employment. In addition, the wage and salary levels for most health-care activities are well above average. As I have pointed out in other columns, the health-care industry has also been one of the fastest growing segments of the economy for the past 15 years.
As someone who studies economic development, I have long wondered why we don't try to better leverage this industry for greater economic benefits to the province. The main reason is that most people hold the public health-care system as sacrosanct and any attempts to consider health care from the perspective of economic development is considered to be the start of a slippery slope that will lead to the destruction of the public health-care system.
So for the purposes of this column, let's start with the assumption that everything I suggest with economic development potential can be accommodated without negatively impacting the public health care system in New Brunswick. In fact, much of what I propose could enhance the health care system by creating better efficiencies and by adding new resources.