New Brunswick hospitals in ‘crisis’ amid ongoing health-care worker shortages

Click to play video: 'N.B. Medical society says COVID-19 situation in hospitals a ‘crisis’' N.B. Medical society says COVID-19 situation in hospitals a ‘crisis’
Watch: The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society is calling the current situation in hospitals a "crisis." The province is facing one of the worst staffing shortages in health-care workers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Nathalie Sturgeon has more – Apr 11, 2022

The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society says the hospital system in many areas is at a crisis level amid ongoing staff shortages due to the COVID-19 virus.

“Again, red phase and crisis,” he said. “If New Brunswickers can’t hear that and know our hospitals are in a crisis, I’m not sure what else to say.”

MacMillan said things are being pushed back, surgeries postponed, and services are limited.

“The hospital remains functional as it has in the past,” he said. “But what we’re trying to do is let the public know that COVID-19 hasn’t left. It is still affecting the hospital system even though mandates have been lifted. In the hospital, we’re still dealing with COVID on a daily basis.”

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In a video posted to Twitter, MacMillan said there were nearly 8,600 cases of COVID-19 reported in the past week. Data on those numbers are reported only weekly in the province, on Tuesday’s.

He said the number of health-care workers off the job due to the virus is the highest it’s ever been since the pandemic began.

Vitalite Health Network reports 442 health-care workers are off the job, while 232 are off within Horizon Health Network.

The shortages are placing strain on the system.

“There will be an opportunity for physicians to actually volunteer to help nurses on these struggling units that they just don’t have the time to do,” he said.

Doctors would help take IV blood work, transport patients, among other duties.

“So that just says right there how much we are struggling keeping these units function when physicians are now actually doing some of the work that our nurses colleagues would normally do because there (are) just too few of them to get the job done.”

Read more: New Brunswick government invests nearly $1.5M in nursing program

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, though, maintains the health authorities are managing the crisis.

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“Both of the CEOs have said, the department has been with us, and in particular there was extensive amount of planning in January, knowing that this fifth wave was going to cut into our health-care professionals, to ensure that we had the mechanisms by which to maneuver throughout this wave,” she said, speaking to reporters in Saint John on Monday.

“We do believe we are coming on to the other side of it.”

She said she knows this isn’t an easy time, but believes that the RHAs are dealing with the situation.

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Volunteers in N.B. sifting through COVID-19 data and information – Apr 6, 2022

Dr. John Dornan, the CEO of Horizon Health Network, said COVID-19 is having an impact on the hospital’s resources.

“We’ve been bringing people back after five days with a negative point-of-care test, asymptomatic, so that lessens the burden of some that are off,” he said. “I’m proudly able, or gladly, as of today, we have fewer people out for COVID reasons, and more coming back than are going out.”

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Despite the mounting staffing crunch, Dornan says there have been no requests to government to reinstate COVID-19 measures for the general public.

“I think that New Brunswickers are smart, they can do what we’ve asked,” he said on Monday. “We have not asked our governments to mandate, legalize, those common sense undertakings.”

The health authority did, though, release a video through social media reminding people the virus remains active in the community and took to the streets to ask people why they continue to wear a mask.

The video featured drone footage of various hospitals and streeter-style interviews of people who were wearing a mask.

In recent weeks, the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital has been unable to treat non-urgent cases due to staffing shortages. Horizon Health Network has shared on social media a number of times in the past two weeks to avoid emergency rooms amid the staffing shortages.

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