The holiday Monday saw residents of New Brunswick’s northernmost community rally around the town of Dalhousie’s closed walk-in clinic.
Vitalité Health network says a lack of resources forced the shut down at the end of January — and that it’s temporary — but residents say the region’s healthcare woes are anything but.
“The question is what’s next?” asks Dalhousie Deputy Mayor Leigh Walsh.
He says the clinic, inside the St. Joseph Community Health Centre, used to operate Monday to Friday and saw upwards of 60 clients a day.
The pandemic saw a switch to by-appointment admittance, with people asked to call in advance to get a spot.
Walsh says that has led residents to swarm the phone lines each morning at 8:00 a.m. and even then, aren’t guaranteed that they’ll see a doctor.
Town councillor Gail Fearon says trying to get an appointment for her 100-year-old mother before the clinic went on hiatus was no easy task.
“We had four phones going that morning,” she says.
“My landline, my cellphone, my husband’s cellphone and my daughter’s cellphone trying to reach the line to bring her in.”
The closure is meant to last for one month, Vitalité said in a release on Jan. 31.
Since then, residents like Fearon’s mom who require medical attention but don’t have a family doctor or can’t get an appointment have faced a half-hour drive to the Campbellton Regional Hospital.
Vitalité says there are continuing efforts to recruit medical professionals to staff the clinic.
However, those at Monday’s rally say they’ve been speaking out about the issue long before this month’s closure.
And they’re not getting any younger — Dalhousie is one of New Brunswick’s oldest communities, with a median age of about 60 years old.
The town’s population is growing, too, according to the 2021 census.
Walsh says he fears what is billed as a temporary closure may be a sign the town may lose the clinic.