Some New Brunswick health officials say the province is getting close to having to shut down elective health care services in hospitals due to a steep climb in COVID-19 cases during the province’s fourth wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said the Delta variant has changed the pandemic in the province because it is more transmissible.
He said it’s concerning to see case numbers multiplying and hospitalizations going up because they’re increasing the stress on an already worn-out health care system, and believes some tough decisions are coming.
“We’ve gone from 30 cases (per day) on average to 60-something cases on average,” Steeves said.
“If it were to double again over the next week, then I think we would be very likely to see elective health care have to close down. And I don’t want to see that.”
New Brunswick Nurses Union president Paula Doucet said those services should already be closed for now as the fourth wave takes hold.
Doucet said other provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan are already struggling to maintain services.
She said an “alarming” number of New Brunswick nurses indicated in a recent union survey that they are considering leaving the industry because they have little energy to continue.
“They’re really hoping to see the end to this pandemic, and what they’re actually seeing is that it’s getting worse,” Doucet said. “It’s like taking one step forward and we’ve taken 10 steps back, it seems.”
Steeves said it’s not yet time for New Brunswick to ask for federal help or relief medical staff from other provinces.
Doucet said “the system is broken,” and hospital capacity is stretched beyond its limits.
“Because of nursing shortages,” she began. “Because of surgeries being postponed, because of patients coming in more acutely ill requiring attention more quickly, and we just don’t have the ability to do that.”
Horizon Health Network told Global News its hospitals are able to maintain all services at this time, including surgical and outpatient procedures.
It also said it’s looking to hire or redeploy up to 300 staff members to meet testing and vaccination demands.
Vitalite Health Network did not respond to a Global News request for information.