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Community members call for Sackville Memorial Hospital services to be restored immediately

Click to play video: 'Concerns rise over the reduction of service at Sackville hospital'
Concerns rise over the reduction of service at Sackville hospital
WATCH: Over 200 residents gathered outside the hospital Wednesday in protest after Horizon Health Network announced this week acute beds at the hospital will be converted to beds for people waiting for long-term care. Suzanne Lapointe reports – Dec 8, 2021

A rally of community members and leaders gathered outside the Sackville Memorial Hospital on Wednesday morning to protest the closure of all acute care beds at the facility.

More than 200 people stood outside, as speakers shared how vital the hospital is to the town of Sackville and neighbouring communities in New Brunswick.

Read more: Sackville to Moncton: N.B. town councillor’s experience with weekend ER closure

The hospital’s ER hours have been cut recently, and just last week, Horizon Health Network said it would be temporarily closing all of its inpatient beds. Patients will instead be transferred to The Moncton Hospital — a 40-minute drive away.

Meanwhile, the beds at Sackville Memorial will be used for people waiting for long-term care.

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“We’re seeing a hemorrhaging of staff. How will the circuit breaker stop this bleeding?” said Dr. Ross Thomas, who is recently retired, at Wednesday’s event.

Residents are worried the changes will eventually lead to a complete closure of the hospital.

Wallie Sears, 93, called the hospital “a little Eden” in the region. It’s where his children were born and where his late wife spent her final days.

“That would be a really bad slap to us to lose this hospital,” he said.

Organizers of the rally said they are calling for all services to be restored immediately at the hospital, with full staffing.

“I feel nurses have been driven away by Horizon and the threat of closures,” said Audrey Hicks, who worked as a nurse at the facility for 40 years and held various positions with the Sackville Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Those at the rally are calling for Horizon Health to restore all services at the hospital. Suzanne Lapointe/Global News

Hicks added that the auxiliary invested upwards of $1 million into the hospital, and helped fund the palliative care unit. She urged Horizon not to close the palliative care services.

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“It’s just not fair for our community to have to go through this at a time when we’re trying to get through COVID,” she said.

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

There was also concern among those at the rally that the situation at the hospital will affect the health of the community.

“Why would people want to move to this community given the uncertainty of the hospital?” said Elaine Smith, the former chair of Sackville Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Click to play video: 'Concerns grow about healthcare in Sackville, N.B.'
Concerns grow about healthcare in Sackville, N.B.

Nurse recruitment ongoing

Horizon Health has said that the changes were necessary because of a shortage of nurses.

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In a statement issued Tuesday, interim president and CEO Dr. John Dornan wrote that Horizon is “actively working” to recruit nurses to New Brunswick, “notably, Sackville.”

“Horizon believes strongly in the importance of rural health care, the future of Sackville Memorial Hospital, and the role this outstanding facility and its dedicated team of staff, physicians, volunteers and community members play each day in providing exceptional care to residents of the community and the surrounding area,” he wrote.

“We are fully committed to enhancing the services offered at this hospital so that it can reach its full potential, and are grateful for the tireless efforts of our physicians and staff at Sackville Memorial Hospital who are among our greatest assets when it comes to recruitment.”

Dornan added that Horizon was working with the local municipalities, Mount Allison University and community groups as part of the recruitment process.

— With files from Suzanne Lapointe

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