FREDERICTON (GNB) – Auditor general Paul Martin tabled a report today in the legislative assembly, highlighting the work of the Department of Health and the regional health authorities’ pandemic response. Martin praised staff for going above and beyond to support New Brunswickers during the pandemic.

The Department of Health was designated as the lead for pandemic health response purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The audit covered key operational areas that were meant to reduce the spread of COVID-19 including testing, contact tracing, contact management, and infection prevention and control guidance.

Martin concluded in his report that “the department had numerous systems and procedures in place that were designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, however we noted areas for improvement should the need arise in the future.”

The auditor general noted that, while the department had established performance metrics such as testing turnaround times, outcomes were not monitored or reported upon.

The demand for test kits was high, with over 17 million tests distributed as of January 2023. However, the lack of inventory-monitoring systems contributed to the department being unable to ensure supplies were provided where needed most.

More than 300 compassionate travel exemption requests were sent to the chief medical officer of health. Martin noted a lack of established criteria to ensure consistent application and transparency of decision-making and reported that “36 per cent of exemption requests tested by our office did not have documented rationale for the decision.”

The report identified issues with the retention of evidence to substantiate public health recommendations throughout the pandemic. From the requested sample, the department was unable to provide evidence-based documentation to substantiate the decisions, acknowledging that it did not create a library or record of sources consulted for evidence-based decision-making.

The auditor general made seven recommendations to address these outstanding issues in his report, which is available online.