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COVID-19: New Brunswick health-care system braces for further strain amid fourth wave

Click to play video: 'Red alert at New Brunswick hospitals to stay for another 2 weeks' Red alert at New Brunswick hospitals to stay for another 2 weeks
WATCH: New Brunswick’s hospitals will stay in the red alert status for at least another two weeks. Hundreds of surgeries have been cancelled already. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are still not vaccinated and that could put the health-care system at risk. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story. – Oct 22, 2021

The province’s two health authorities provided an update on the health-care system amid the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying both will extend the red level for at least one to two weeks.

The red level means the hospitals have no visitors, while non-urgent surgeries and services are cancelled. That news comes as it faces a labour dispute and a looming vaccination deadline, which would send employees home without pay if they are not fully vaccinated by Nov. 19.

Horizon Health Network interim CEO Dr. John Dornan said 113 non-urgent surgeries have been cancelled since it moved to the red level exactly two weeks ago.

Read more: COVID-19: N.B. reports 5 more deaths as public service employees urged to get vaccinated

The health network is also facing outbreaks in the Moncton Hospital in its geriatric unit, general surgery unit and cancer unit.

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Dornan said 14 people within those units have contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital.

As for how long this level of service can be sustained with potential staffing shortages, Dornan says the red level is not a long-term solution.

“Cases can grow, and we are in the midst of possible labour action, and it’s not acceptable not to do the surgeries we want to do so in red, it’s not an optimal environment. We need to get back to yellow,” he said.

Dornan said the health network was preparing a contingency plan.

“We’re also hopeful that, should people leave, that others will step up and that ultimately people will recognize and talk to people and understand the safety of vaccination and what it does for your colleagues and your patients,” Dornan said.

Read more: Woman frustrated over surgery cancellation due to COVID-19 outbreaks at Moncton hospital

He said bringing COVID-19 into the hospital due to a personal choice is not in the cards.

At least 1,200 employees within Horizon Health Network have not been fully vaccinated or haven’t disclosed their status, in Vitalité that is about 11 per cent of the total 8,300 employees.

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In Vitalité Health Network, at least 55 non-urgent surgeries were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 situations. Dr. France Desrosiers said an outbreak in the Campbellton Regional Hospital impacted 17 patients and four died.

Desrosiers said 2,000 MRI appointments were also cancelled.

“The fourth wave of the pandemic strikes with an intensity we have never forecasted,” she said.

Both Dornan and Desrosiers said the two authorities have been working together to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Dornan said the key is being transparent with the public about the hospital’s capacity and the challenges it continues to face amid the fourth.

“There is no playbook on how we respond to COVID,” he said.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick sees uptick in COVID-19 vaccination rate for public service employees following mandate announcement' New Brunswick sees uptick in COVID-19 vaccination rate for public service employees following mandate announcement
New Brunswick sees uptick in COVID-19 vaccination rate for public service employees following mandate announcement – Oct 22, 2021

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