Campbellton, N.B. mayor calls ICU closure ‘unacceptable’

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Campbellton mayor calls ICU closure ‘unacceptable’
WATCH: The ICU at the Campbellton Regional Hospital is closed for two weeks with staffing shortages to blame, says Vitalité Health Network. As Travis Fortnum reports, the city’s mayor calls the closure “unacceptable.” – Aug 26, 2021

The Campbellton Regional Hospital’s intensive care unit has been closed for two weeks as staffing shortages continue to plague New Brunswick’s health-care systems.

In a press release issued Thursday, a spokesperson for Vitalité Health Network says the move is aimed to reallocate resources to the hospital’s Emergency Department.

“The Campbellton Regional Hospital is facing an unprecedented shortage of nursing staff,” writes Jean-René Noël, director of communications and community engagement for the province’s francophone health network.

“Although this shortage is being felt throughout the facility, the Emergency Department has been particularly affected.”

The closure of the ICU is set to last until Sept. 9 – which residents fear is too long.

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“It’s unacceptable,” Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau told Global News.

Comeau says the timing of the closure, which comes as health experts continue to warn of an impending fourth wave of COVID-19, is dangerous.

The Restigouche region, which falls in provincial health Zone 5, was hard hit in prior waves – seeing the province’s first death attributed to the virus in June 2020.

As of July 30, the Zone has 91 vacant nursing positions with 387 across Vitalité as a whole.

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Comeau says he understands the implications of a staffing shortage, but feels local resources are being mishandled.

“We hear of vacancies, but we hear a lot of people’s stories of applying for vacancies at the Campbellton Regional Hospital and they’re told ‘well we have something for you in Bathurst, or Moncton,’” he says.

The mayor told Global News the CRH has lost 19 doctors since 2018.

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“Do we have a problem?” he asks. “We have to seriously look at that.”

New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Thursday she’s working with all stakeholders to attack shortages provincewide.

“This is not a problem that’s happened overnight,” Shephard says. “This has been a long-standing issue that’s been accumulating.”

She said she hopes to have some solutions in the pending release of a provincial health plan, but cuts like this are going to have to happen for the time being.

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“It’s regrettable that programs need to be temporarily halted in support of other things like emergency rooms, but the fact is you will be seeing measures and opportunities of solutions coming forward in the near future.”

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick Medical Society calls for changes in health-care system'
New Brunswick Medical Society calls for changes in health-care system

Comeau worries those solutions will come too late for the roughly 40,000 residents of the region – as well as folks across the river in Avignon and the Listuguj First Nation – who rely on the hospital.

Vitalité said patients who were in the ICU at the time of the temporary shutdown have been or will be transferred to the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst (98 km away) or the Edmundston Regional Hospital (198 km away).

“If some people die on their way there, I’m going to tell you, it’s not going to be a nice message,” warned Comeau.

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New patients from the region requiring intensive care will also be redirected as stated, with those across the river given the choice to go to one of the alternate ICUs or one in Quebec.

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