MONCTON (GNB) – A new provincial public health lab will be constructed within the existing Dr. Georges-L. Dumont University Hospital Centre to enhance public health monitoring, investigation and mitigation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for New Brunswick to have its own state-of-the-art public health lab,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. “This will help ensure our province has a central hub capable of conducting timely and advanced testing in support of public health investigations.”

The lab will support the chief medical officer, unlike other existing labs which assist clinicians with individual patients.

The public health lab will be 929 sqm (10,000 sq ft). Work is scheduled to begin in November and is expected to be complete by the end of March 2024. An additional 11 full-time employees will be hired to staff the lab.

The Vitalité Health Network has developed a plan to create the public health lab by refurbishing space available in the hospital, separate from the existing clinical lab. This will ensure it meets the increased ventilation capacity and required safety features. The two labs will be in close proximity, allowing them to share staff and equipment.

“The Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre’s microbiology laboratory has been able to distinguish itself in the midst of a pandemic crisis because of its expertise in infectious diseases and leadership in terms of development, research and education,” said Stéphane Legacy, vice-president of outpatient and professional services at Vitalité Health Network. “Its evolution into a provincial public health lab will allow Vitalité to create new partnerships that will guide us in our mission to improve health care for all New Brunswickers.”

The public health lab will provide support to labs that are part of both the regional health authorities. The lab at the Saint John Regional Hospital will continue to handle samples of potential bioterrorism, enteric bacteria and mycobacterial cultures.

Some of the advantages of a dedicated public health lab include:

·         providing a single location to house centralized data;

·         creating a dedicated research component at the federal and provincial level;

·         designating a single site to provide provincial lab leadership and support;

·         ensuring dedicated lab support is available for disaster preparedness; and

·         ensuring New Brunswick is aligned with other provinces and territories for any future public health event.

Today’s announcement is part of the government’s health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action. Released in November 2021, the plan outlines a path forward, intended to stabilize and rebuild New Brunswick’s health-care system to be more citizen-focused, accessible, accountable, inclusive and service-oriented.