The blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border to protest modified self-isolation requirements has had a huge impact Wednesday on the daily operations of the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre (CRHCC) in Amherst. N.S.
It has forced the centre to provide essential services only, which is preventing some health-care workers who reside in New Brunswick to report to work at CRHCC.
“We’re not able to provide care in the same way. The staff who have come across have had to wait for a number of hours to cross over. And it’s been a very stressful situation for them,” said Bethany McCormick, vice-president of operations for the Northern Zone at Nova Scotia Health.
According to the Emergency Management Office, more than 100 appointments for services such as prenatal, services for children with autism and pacemaker care were cancelled at Cumberland Regional Health Centre.
As the blockade continues to impact patients and their families in the area, McCormick said it’s also having an impact on the province’s wider health-care system.
“People could be trying to come for services in many of our sites and hospitals. We also know from our colleagues at the IWK, for example, that they have critical supplies that are in trucks in the blockade that can’t get through,” she said.
These supplies are needed for diagnostic testing for babies and mothers.
“There’s a risk that they will expire before they get here for all of the patients and families in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that receive services from us,” McCormick said.
She hopes that a resolution to the blockade can be found as soon as possible.
According to the Health Service Director John Wright, there are 125 NSHA health-care employees who reside in New Brunswick, as well as 10 to 12 physicians.
But due to the blockade, about five nursing staff and three respiratory therapists could not make it to work on Wednesday.
“We’ve had numerous ward clerks and support staff that haven’t been able to make it in,” said Wright.
When Wright first learned about the blockade at 5 a.m., he started working with the RCMP on a way to escort employees, but not all were able to cross over.
“Some of our staff have waited upwards of three to four hours for these escorts and some have been denied these escorts based on their status within the facility,” said Wright.
He said only nurses and physicians were allowed, while others who may have been ward clerks or other employees were denied the escort.
“We’ve had some of our employees quite demoralized. They’re having to explain why their status is essential. And I’m just here to remind everyone that everyone that works for us is an essential health-care worker. Regardless of your role, you’re vital to our operations,” said Wright.
He said that the centre’s employees have endured 15 months of border crossing that have been challenging at times, but this is “the biggest challenge” they’ve had to date comparable to the ones they faced when the COVID-19 restrictions first came into place.
Emergency Management Office monitoring the situation
Government officials said Wednesday they are closely monitoring issues related to the blockade on Highway 104, near the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, that is disrupting the movement of “important goods and services and could put individuals at risk”.
In a release, the Emergency Management Office (EMO) said the situation is having an impact on the transportation sector and supply chains. This includes refrigerated trucks carrying perishable foods that could spoil if they run out of fuel, medication to pharmacies and propane supplies for industrial customers.
Wholesale food deliveries to restaurants are impacted, as is feed to livestock — affecting small businesses and farmers across the region.
“Traffic congestion in Amherst is high due to vehicles parking in the town. This has the potential to create conditions that could slow emergency vehicles responding to calls,” EMO said.
The blockade is also disrupting home care for residents in Cumberland County and stopping fragile test samples for children with life-threatening conditions coming from New Brunswick and P.E.I. from arriving at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.
The community vaccine clinic in Cumberland County is open and no appointments have been cancelled, but the parking lot has been blocked, posing a risk to those trying to get their COVID-19 vaccines.