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N.B. hospitals brace for summer service impacts as staff shortages continue

Click to play video: 'N.B. healthcare resources stretched' N.B. healthcare resources stretched
Summer has finally arrived and for many, this means time for a much-needed vacation. But as Robert Lothian reports, time off could be troublesome for New Brunswick’s health-care system, where resources are already scarce – Jun 22, 2022

Health-care facilities in New Brunswick have begun preparations to mitigate the impact of worsened staff shortages caused by summer vacations and time off.

According to Dr. Mark MacMillan, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, the coming months will help serve as a recovery period for health-care professionals.

“There are some plans being put in place to ensure that people are able to get some time off. We have all, not just physicians, all members of the health-care team have been working extremely hard over the past two and a half years,” MacMillan said.

Read more: New Brunswick health plan update has little to say on recruitment issues

After a trying two and a half years, he said, many health-care workers have decided to take a leave of absence or find a new profession.

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A lack of resources and staffing shortages combined with already growing wait-lists has placed an even larger burden on the system.

This could lead to longer delays and cancellations of service when resources are more limited this summer.

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

“What we need the public to understand is while we are physicians and nurses, and other members of the health-care team, we’re also human, and we need a break as well,” MacMillan said.

Both Vitalité Health Network and Horizon Health Network have released action plans for health-care services in the coming months.

The latter stated it does not forecast substantial service impacts in clinical and community settings, but noted it is “severely challenged” by staff shortages, and situations can change abruptly.

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At Vitalité, officials said there will be a temporary slowdown in services with the potential for reductions or suspensions in service to prioritize resources. A news release noted the network plans to hire nearly 200 students to serve as patient care attendants.

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In the past, summer has coincided with recurring shutdowns for the emergency departments of some hospitals.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Horizon Health Network stated there are 89.5 physician vacancies and 518 registered nurse vacancies.

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

A separate statement from Vitalité Health Network reported 200 RN vacancies and nearly 100 doctor vacancies.

According to MacMillan, while these slowdowns could cause delays, time off will be crucial to retention and recruitment, and can prove there is a focus on the mental health of staff.

“So do I see a light at the end of the tunnel? Absolutely. It’s there, it’s bright, it’s just a little far away right now.”

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