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N.B. hospitals report a plateau in COVID-19 numbers

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick hospitals report plateau of COVID numbers' New Brunswick hospitals report plateau of COVID numbers
WATCH: According to New Brunswick’s two health authorities, the province could be on the other side of the fifth wave’s peak. But as Travis Fortnum reports, that doesn’t mean hospitals are in the clear. – Apr 21, 2022

According to the province’s two health authorities, New Brunswick may have passed the peak of COVID-19’s fifth wave.

According to weekly reporting from Horizon and Vitalité Health Networks, 424 health-care workers are currently off the job for COVID-19-related reasons – 180 from Horizon and 244 from Vitalité.

That figure is down from 541 last week.

“It seems that we have hit a plateau,” says Brigitte Sonier Ferguson, Vitalité Health Network’s vice president of university mission, performance and quality.

“However, the situation within our hospital establishments remains very fragile.”

READ MORE: N.B. reports 10 more COVID-19 deaths, 102 new hospital admissions

While absences have been a major indicator of how the health-care system in New Brunswick has fared against the virus, capacity has also been closely monitored.

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Moncton’s Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont hospital remains at 100 per cent capacity, while the Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Kent is well over capacity, on paper at least, at 160 per cent.

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’
N.B. Medical society says COVID-19 situation in hospitals a ‘crisis’ – Apr 11, 2022

But Sonier-Ferguson says that’s no reason to panic.

“What we have to understand is these numbers represent a snapshot in time,” she says. “Occupancy levels in our hospitals vary on a daily basis and reasons for this variation can be multi-factorial.”

Remaining at red

When New Brunswick lifted COVID-19 restrictions provincewide in March, hospitals across the two health networks remained at red alert levels, with masking and visitation restrictions in effect.

Sonier-Ferguson says that’s unlikely to change for a while.

“I think we’re going to be in a wait-and-see mode for a foreseeable future,” she says.

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“We still have important numbers of people infected with COVID in the community. The numbers are still quite high. We always have to be on standby and in sort of a mode of steady surveillance.”

That level of caution, she says, is in place to protect both patients and staff.

READ MORE: Unlike in the rest of Canada, free rapid COVID 19 tests not widely available in N.L.

“Losing one more staff member could be a very big problem for a particular unit,” says Dr. Mark MacMillan, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.

“If you want your health-care system to continue to function as it has been, and hopefully better in the future, we need you to help us keep the system open.”

MacMillan says the apparent plateau in COVID-19 is promising – but that health care in the province was already under significant strain before the pandemic began.

Neither he nor Sonier-Ferguson are placing bets on when restrictions in the system may start to ease.

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