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Perth Andover mayor concerned about hospital changes

Click to play video: 'N.B. hotel forced to turn beds to transitional care beds for seniors' N.B. hotel forced to turn beds to transitional care beds for seniors
WATCH: Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick has announced service cuts to another one of its rural hospitals. Perth Andover’s Hotel Dieu St Joseph Hospital has been forced to turn all in-patient beds to transitional care beds for seniors. Nathalie Sturgeon explains what that means for the community. – Jul 2, 2021

More than one year ago, the community of Perth Andover was one of six facing cuts to its rural emergency room and hospital, and now it’s staring down that same path once again.

Horizon Health Network announced it would temporarily be switching in-patient beds to transitional care beds for those waiting for long-term care placement due to a critical shortage of registered nurses.

It will keep the emergency room open on a 24/7 basis, but admissions will be sent to the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, 40 minutes away.

Read more: Sackville, N.B. hospital ER to close overnight on weekends due to nursing shortage

The news is frustrating for residents, but not a surprise, said Mayor Marianne Bell.

She said there is a recruitment and retention issue at the Hotel Dieu of St. Joseph, which has been ongoing for about a decade. There has been little progress, even now as the situation becomes more critical.

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“They don’t think Horizon Health has made a priority of putting nurses in place,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

The health authority also lacks a comprehensive strategy to deal with the communities, she said.

Read more: Doctor access, transportation: New Brunswick’s first public consultation on health care complete

As the Upper River Valley Hospital gets the influx of patients from Perth Andover and the surrounding area, it too will feel the crunch, Bell said.

She said it will balloon from there, with the nearest option is the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital — two hours away.

She also worries about the added strain to Ambulance New Brunswick because of the need for patient transfers.

“Even if it is just a few people who have to wait longer for an ambulance, that’s devastating,” she said.

Horizon recruiting internationally

Horizon Health Network’s Vice President Clinical Geri Geldart said it recognizes these changes impact the community and met with the hospital staff on how to best approach it — before settling on the temporary switch to a more long-term care-based facility.

She said she is worried about the impact on the ambulance service as well, but they are monitoring it.

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Sackville Memorial Hospital closes overnight on weekends due to similar nursing shortages. Oromocto Public Hospital closes early each night of the week due to a physician shortage.

Read more: Doctor shortage forces early daily closure of Oromocto ER

Geldart couldn’t say whether any further cuts are coming, and it depends on the health authority’s success with recruitment.

“There are none planned, but we can easily see that if we’re unsuccessful in recruitment, and we end up with additional vacancies, then we could be in a position where we have to make some other hard decisions,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Geldart also worries about burnout for nursing staff — she said it causes vacancies.

Horizon Health Network hasn’t told the Village of Perth Andover when it could expect hospital services to return to normal.

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