Sussex, N.B., residents once again enter the weekend unsure whether they will be able to access an emergency department should they require one.
On Thursday, Horizon Health Network announced the emergency department at the Sussex Health Centre would be closed for evening and night shifts on Friday and Sunday due to a shortage of available nursing staff. This is the third consecutive weekend that the facility has seen its weekend services impacted.
“I’m not surprised at all. I know that Horizon has been struggling with ERs in Sussex and in other places around the province for a number of reasons,” said Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne.
“Sometimes it’s a lack of nursing staff, sometimes it’s a shortage of doctor or physician availability, and sometimes it’s the impact of COVID, but nevertheless, they cycle around. It’s one reason or another.”
Thorne says he has regular conversations with members of Horizon Health Network and the Department of Health to discuss the ongoing issues.
Many residents who report to the ER are there because they do not have a family doctor, said Thorne. He noted that many of the necessary steps will require time, but the important part is that work is being done.
However, trouble with access to a family doctor or an emergency department is a deterrent for newcomers, according to the Multicultural Association of Sussex.
“This is really affecting us and our newcomers because they not going to stick around in a community where there isn’t 24/7 access to health care, and I’ve been told that directly by newcomers before,” said executive director Chelsie Nightingale.
Coming from countries that have regular access to health care, newcomers are “shocked” by the state of health care in New Brunswick’s rural communities, she said.
Discussions around the closures in Sussex have not included the multicultural association.
During closures, regional health authorities often advise to seek treatment at another hospital or use Tele-Care 811, both resources that are not easily accessible for newcomers.
As a parent of a young child and often dealing with clients who have young children, Nightingale said the closures can be quite concerning.
“We don’t know what it’s going to be like every night because kids, when they get sick, they often don’t even show symptoms of it leading up to it, and they could be having a medical emergency in the middle of the night.”
These issues are making their way to Thorne’s office, along with concerns the closures could prove to be a long-term fix.
“What I do tell those people is that from my discussions with the province and with allies, that they are committed to keeping our ears open and our hospital wards as high-functioning primary care facilities,” said Thorne.