February 27, 2018 4:26 pm EST
Updated: February 27, 2018 5:27 pm EST

Nursing shortage forces temporary shutdown of emergency department at Moncton Hospital

WATCH: The incident has sparked concern from the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB), which says there is a critical shortage of nursing staff across the province. Shelley Steeves reports.

A shortage of nursing staff forced Moncton Hospital to temporarily shut down a section of its emergency department over the weekend.

The incident has sparked concern from the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB), which says there is a critical shortage of nursing staff across the province.

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“Around 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, a decision was made to close the non-acute area of the emergency department and we provided emergency care out of the acute area in the department due to a shortage of nursing,” said Nancy Parker, the executive director of Moncton Hospital.

Parker says the shutdown happened after one nurse called in sick and two nursing positions remain vacant in the department.  The closure lasted for about 12 hours and ambulances were diverted to the George L. Dumont Hospital for about two hours while the hospital searched for staff to cover the staff shortage.

Parker says the hospital has been struggling to fill nursing positions, especially term positions.

“It has been challenging. We have a large recruitment on with Horizon now so we are reaching out across Canada as well and actually we have been very fortunate to get some applications back from Ontario and B.C. and Alberta,” she said.

The Horizon Health Network is actively recruiting nurses to fill vacant positions but was unable to provide Global News with the total number of nursing vacancies at its hospitals across the province.

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The NANB says it has been warning the province for more than 10 years that a critical nursing shortage has been looming in the province.

“As our population ages in New Brunswick, so does our workforce, resulting in a tsunami of retiring nurses within the next few years,” said Jennifer Whitehead, a spokesperson for NANB.

2016 nursing statistics reveal a total of 8,626 nurses are registered in New Brunswick with approximately 43 per cent of registered nurses and nurse practitioners are over 50 years of age. On average, nurses retire at 57 years old.

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Combine that with what Whitehead says is with a drop in enrollment for nursing programs in the province, “and the problems worsens.”

Whitehead adds that the nursing shortage could have a direct impact on patient safety.

“The NANB is currently a member of a nursing resource committee established by the government and is optimistic serious efforts will be made to address this situation,” she said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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