As New Brunswick hits an all-time high for COVID-19 hospitalizations – one family doctor in the province is sounding alarm bells.
Public Health reported Friday that 69 people were in hospital with the virus, 17 of them in intensive care; 14 people are reportedly on a ventilator.
These record-high numbers come as the province is forced to get by without 545 of its health-care workers – 347 whom have COVID themselves and 198 isolating out of precaution, says Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
“In the coming weeks, it is likely the health-care system will be tested like never before,” Shephard said at a Friday morning briefing.
In Miramichi, one doctor says the health-care system is already being seriously tested.
Family practitioner Dr. Roxanne MacKnight says the stress on her colleagues in the field has been intense for a while – and the province needs to tighten measures if it wants things to get better.
“We are not mitigating the spread of this virus enough,” she says.
Dr. MacKnight caught attention this week when she took her frustrations to Twitter.
“New Brunswick needs to lockdown NOW,” she wrote in her post.
She says she wants to see the province implement measures like Ontario did this week – with gatherings limited to 10 people indoors in most cases, and indoor dining, bars and gyms closed, among other things.
Much of the doctor’s wish list lines up with Level 3 of New Brunswick’s Winter Alert Plan – but the province just moved to Level 2 on Dec. 31.
MacKnight says Omicron’s rapid spread has taken us beyond that already.
“I can only tell you what I’m hearing from my colleagues and what I’m seeing,” she says. “This is already overwhelming and we feel it’s time to slow it down.”
Shephard fielded a number of questions on this at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing – asked why the province isn’t tightening restrictions to mitigate the storm she herself forecast.
She says the conversation around moving to Level 3 is “not off the table,” but didn’t provide much insight into the conversation itself.
“The best decision we can make is the best decision we make on all the information on any given day,” Shephard said.
At the briefing, it was announced that New Brunswick would open up its booster eligibility even further than expected next week – allowing anyone 18-years-old and older who’s five months out from their last shot to make an appointment.
Dr. MacKnight says that will help.
“We need people to get vaccinated,” she says.
“I know they’re hearing this from all the briefings and people are tired of hearing this, but we are seeing that people that are unvaccinated are sicker.”
The province’s eligibility for third doses opens up Jan. 10.