The head of the New Brunswick Medical Society says without enough staff to deal with the backlog of clinic patients being created while hospitals are in the red phase, there are growing concerns about patient safety.
“I worry about morbidity and mortality in patients while they sit on my wait-list waiting to see me,” said Dr. Mark MacMillan, the president of the society and a gastroenterologist in Fredericton.
MacMillan said some doctors haven’t even caught up in the backlog of hospital clinic patients created since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, let alone dealing with growing wait-lists with hospitals in the red phase.
“With the ongoing staff shortages that we are experiencing, catching up may be almost impossible. We are getting to the point now that we are in a pretty significant crisis and as physicians, we are very worried about our patients,” said MacMillan.
According to the Horizon Health Network, the volume of patients being seen at some hospital clinics has been reduced while hospitals are in the red phase.
Being in red means that all non-essential health care and services will be “greatly reduced or temporarily suspended.”
This includes ambulatory care, professional services such as physiotherapy, non-urgent X-rays and scans, and elective surgeries.
MacMillan said efforts are being made to triage priority patients but wait-lists for procedures like colonoscopies are growing and he worries that some patients may not be diagnosed in a timely manner.
“There’s going to come a point where we may have to slow down the amount of people we can get through the colon cancer screening program. I mean, people have positive results and they need these tests done but if we don’t have the resources to be able to staff the rooms to do it, they are going to have to wait,” he said.
He said without adequate support staff in place to help clear up the wait-lists once hospitals are out of the red, patients will likely have to wait longer to rebook appointments.
The head of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, Paula Doucet, said that in the last six months, nurses have worked nearly double the number of overtime hours compared with last year.
Doucet said she doesn’t think it’s a “realistic expectation” to expect the backlog of patients currently being created to be cleared up as the pandemic persists though a fourth wave.
Doucet said some nurses were already being drawn from clinics to work in other parts of the hospital due to staffing shortages before the pandemic hit.
“When we come out a red phase, it is not like we magically have more staff.”
She said that until more staff are recruited or the province changes the way it delivers health-care services longer wait times for services will likely persist.View link »