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N.B. battling health-care worker shortage amid latest COVID-19 wave

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick health authority please for more nurses'
New Brunswick health authority please for more nurses
WATCH: One of New Brunswick’s health authorities is issuing a plea for more nursing staff to work in units like the ER and the ICU. Many health-care workers are off the job due to COVID-19, and that’s factoring into a system that was already under strain before the pandemic. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Apr 27, 2022

Amid the latest wave of COVID-19, New Brunswick health authorities are continuing to deal with critical staffing shortages, especially among nurses.

Brenda Kinney, Horizon Health Network vice president and chief nursing officer, said the system is challenged.

“We’re very challenged at the moment,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “I would say it’s based on a number of factors.”

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She said with the number of lingering vacancies plus the number of people out sick from COVID-19 and other infections circulating in the province – staff are stretched thin.

“We do have a fair number of staff that are out,” she said. “With our small baselines it certainly has impacted us. I would say that has been an impact in most every facility.”

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Click to play video: 'Hospitals grappling with staff shortages in the 6th wave of the pandemic'
Hospitals grappling with staff shortages in the 6th wave of the pandemic

According to Horizon Health Network’s COVID-19 dashboard, 142 health workers are out due to the virus, with outbreaks in 18 different units.

Kinney said they have been limited in what services they can provide as a result of the staffing shortages.

“It does impact on the level of service we provide,” she said. “Certainly, people that are triaged at a lower level, a non-urgent level, such as triage level four and five will have significantly longer wait times. We certainly recommend people look at other options for care when you’re at that level. We need to be able to focus on the truly urgent and emergent cases that come to our emergency departments.”

Read more: New Brunswick reports 6 more COVID-19 deaths in weekly update

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Surgeries have also been an issue for the health authority, she said.

Horizon Health Network put out a plea on a social media platform asking for nurses to step up to work shifts and overtime.

“Calling all nursing staff! Horizon continues to face nursing shortages across our organization, in particular on weekends,” the Twitter thread said.

“If you are an #RN or #LPN and have availability to work extra shifts, we ask you to send an email to HorizonRedeploymentCenter@Horizonnb.ca to express your interest,” the tweet went on to say. “We need support on inpatient units, Emergency Departments and Critical Care across Horizon.”

Kinney said Saint John and Moncton appear to be dealing with the worst of the staffing shortages.

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“Moncton and Saint John are particularly challenged with the emergency room staffing and at times Fredericton is as well,” she said. “I would also say we have some ICU shortages in Moncton that are particularly challenging.”

She said they are continuing to recruit nursing students but training and orientation take time, meaning those replacements are a long way from helping solve the problem.

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“I would say right now we would probably take anybody was willing to help us because our need is great everywhere,” she said,

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 staffing issues in health-care leading to surgery delays'
COVID-19 staffing issues in health-care leading to surgery delays

Kinney said, so far, only a couple of people have responded to the callout on social media.

In Vitalite Health Network, there are 177 workers out with COVID-19, with another 48 out as a result of being a close contact of a positive case.

The Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital, according to the health authority’s website, is at a capacity of 103 per cent. It also tweeted that the emergency department there was unable to treat non-urgent cases as of April 26 until further notice.

Five of the 11 hospitals within Vitalite are currently well over capacity, varying from 117 per cent to 150 per cent.

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Vitalite Health Network told Global News no one was available for an interview on Wednesday.

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