Five NB Hospitals Close or Reduce Hours Before Weekend Due to Staff Shortage – New Brunswick |

Sabrina Harnish lost her GP in October.

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Since then, to deal with her autoimmune issues, she’s been navigating virtual appointments that don’t always meet her needs, trying to find space at overcrowded night clinics, or making a trip to her local emergency department.

Recently, however, emergency departments don’t seem like a viable option.

“There are a lot of emergency rooms that are closing,” he said. “I am experiencing a health issue where I can’t see anyone because access is an issue. Our system was on the brink of collapse even before the pandemic hit and now, with all these external stressors, it’s even worse.”

In recent days, five emergency departments under the supervision of Horizon Health Network have been closing or reducing their hours due to staff shortages and more staff contracting COVID-19.

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Sussex Health Center is closed on July 9 and 10. While Sackville Memorial Hospital will be closed overnight next weekend.

Upper River Valley Hospital, about an hour from Fredericton, also reported a doctor shortage and directed patients to seek treatment at other hospitals.

In Oromocto, where Harnish lives, the hospital was closed on Friday with plans to reopen over the weekend.

“From not having a family doctor, to eVisit not being an effective measure to help with your concern, to not being able to get into a clinic, to not even being able to visit an emergency room, that sounds like a lot and it’s a lot,” Harnish said.

Harnish said the suggestions put forth by health authorities and the government don’t meet everyone’s needs, and the emergency department is often the only option.

“Our local hospital is closed here and they had reduced hours to begin with,” he said speaking to Oromocto Hospital.

Dr. Mark MacMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said closing any emergency department is not a decision to be made lightly.

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“We need to emphasize to New Brunswickers that, as unfortunate as it is, we can’t have an ER open if it’s not properly staffed and safe,” he said in an interview Friday.

MacMillan said he is working to find solutions, both short-term and long-term, adding that no rural hospital closures have been discussed.

“In fact, our main conversations are about trying to improve care in this province,” MacMillan said.

No one from Horizon Health Network was available for an interview Friday, but in a statement Margaret Melanson, vice president of Clinical Services/Quality and Patient-Centered Care at Horizon Health Network, said closing emergency departments is a last resort.

“Our pre-existing staffing challenges have been expanded this summer in the wake of a recent spike in COVID-19 activity, as well as the need to provide our staff with vacation time,” he said in the statement.

“We are working on a number of strategies to improve emergency services at all of our hospitals and are committed to providing sustainable access to residents.”

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Still, that’s little comfort to people like Harnish, who worry about accessing the right care in an emergency.

“When leaders think about saving money, I wish they would think again,” said Harnish. “I would like them to make an investment in the future of our province and spend some money on our healthcare system because it desperately needs it.”

Some fixes have been implemented, according to a statement from Horizon Health Network.

Two emergency room doctors recently left Sackville Memorial Hospital to focus on their family practice within the community, the health authority confirmed Friday.

“This condition has presented a significant barrier to our recruiting efforts in Sackville, as very few candidates are interested in running a family practice while taking on additional duties in the emergency department,” said Dr. Jody Enright, medical director from Horizon to Moncton and Sackville. .

“This was also identified as a concern by some of our most experienced physicians who are approaching retirement. By removing this requirement, we believe it will significantly improve our chances of identifying, recruiting, and ultimately retaining more family physicians and ER physicians in Sackville in the future.”

Enright said the health authority is aggressively recruiting doctors specifically interested in emergency medicine to replace those no longer required to take on a portion of emergency department shifts.

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The Health Department did not respond to request for comment by the deadline.

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