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New COVID-19 patients to be transferred as Edmundston hospital’s ICU ‘at capacity’

Click to play video: 'Edmundston region at critical stage in COVID-19 fight' Edmundston region at critical stage in COVID-19 fight
The Vitalité Health Network is limiting new admissions to the Edmundston Regional Hospital "as much as possible" as the fight against COVID-19 continues. But it's a tense time with the hospital already at capacity, and some non-COVID-19 patients have already been transferred to other hospitals. Callum Smith has more – Apr 6, 2021

The Vitalité Health Network is limiting new admissions to the Edmundston Regional Hospital “as much as possible” and new COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization in the area will be diverted to Fredericton. New patients without COVID-19 will also be transferred to other hospitals.

“This measure is effective immediately and will be re-evaluated on April 8,” reads a statement from Dr. France Desrosiers, president and CEO of the health network.

With 133 of New Brunswick’s 162 active COVID-19 cases in the Edmundston region, known as Zone 4, strict red alert level public health measures remain in place, including keeping close contacts to only those within your household. New Brunswick reported only three new cases Tuesday, one of which is in the northwestern part of the province.

“Our region (is) probably the region that has been hit the hardest throughout the Maritimes and the Atlantic provinces,” Acting Mayor Eric Marquis tells Global News. “This one is hitting pretty hard on the mental state of people.”

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“The UK variant of COVID-19 is hitting the Edmundston area with unprecedented strength,” says the statement from Desrosiers. “Many patients with this variant must be admitted due to the seriousness of their symptoms requiring acute care. The Intensive Care Unit of the Edmundston Regional Hospital is at capacity in its ability to provide safe care to patients on respirators.”

Read more: More COVID-19 variants of concern in N.B., spike in severe cases and hospitalizations

As of Tuesday afternoon, about nine people are on ventilators there. Dr. Jennifer Russell says “pretty much all of the cases” in Zone 4 are the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K.

“Transmissibility is higher, the symptoms are more severe, the impacts are more severe, the risks of hospitalization and ICU (intensive care unit) admission is higher, especially in younger populations,” she says in an interview. “So I think we have an age range right now of people in the ICU that ranges between 30 and late 70s.”

As a result, contact tracers are going back 72 hours, rather than 48, Russell says. And more people are isolating.

“Not only are we isolating close contacts of a case, we’re isolating the close contacts of close contacts,” she says.

People requiring hospitalization in the area who do not have COVID-19 will also be transferred to other health-care facilities.

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Thomas Lizotte, a media relations officer with the health network, confirmed Tuesday about five non-COVID-19 patients who have been transferred to health-care such as the Grand Falls General Hospital, Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph de Saint-Quentin and the Campbellton Regional Hospital. The Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst could also care for patients who can’t be admitted in Edmundston.

“Care corridors have been established between the province’s various hospitals based on their geographic proximity and intake capacity,” Desrosiers says.

Dr. Jennifer Russell speaks at a press briefing in Fredericton on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020. Government of New Brunswick

“Ambulance New Brunswick has been advised of the situation and new measures are in place,” Desrosiers said in the statement. “Care corridors have been established between the province’s various hospitals based on their geographic proximity and intake capacity.”

In accordance with the health network’s emergency plan, people in the area who test positive for COVID-19 and require hospital admission will be transferred to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, Vitalité says.

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“If they have to move COVID patients, that is another step,” Dr. Russell says. “That has been discussed in terms of making sure it would be done as safely as possible. But it’s not ideal.”

Read more: Doctor’s orders: Vaccinated rotational workers will still have to quarantine in Nova Scotia

But Russell is asking for people to stay the course.

“As a province, we’ve done extraordinarily well,” she says. “But we do have several weeks and months ahead of us.”

And while first responder salutes — with sirens and lights — outside of hospitals have become a bit of a tradition in light of COVID-19, a recent display of appreciation outside the local hospital didn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s touching,” one health-care worker tells Global News. “It moves us.”

Click to play video: 'Vaccinated rotational workers will still have to quarantine in Nova Scotia' Vaccinated rotational workers will still have to quarantine in Nova Scotia
Vaccinated rotational workers will still have to quarantine in Nova Scotia – Apr 5, 2021

Meanwhile, Francine Landry, the Liberal MLA for Madawaska Les Lacs-Edmundston, is calling on the provincial government to keep all schools closed in the area, at least for the remainder of the week.

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And her colleague, Jean-Claude D’Amours, representing Edmundston-Madawaska Centre, says the province needs to hold more COVID-19 news conferences, or briefings, to keep people informed.

“We are in the biggest crisis the province has faced for a long time with people in hospital and ICU at the same time, and I mean the government is silent,” he says. “Each and every day, I receive emails and emails of people asking ‘do you know if they will have a press conference today?'”

But, D’Amours says everyone needs to help the region’s fight against COVID-19.

“The last days have not been easy for anybody,” he says, “but we need to continue to respect the direction of public health.”

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