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‘Critical staff shortages’ force Horizon Health Network to reduce ER capacity

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick preparing for surge of respiratory illnesses'
New Brunswick preparing for surge of respiratory illnesses
New Brunswick’s acting chief medical officer of health says he’s worried about the impact that respiratory viruses will have on the health-care system this season – saying the province has yet to see the worst of it. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story. – Nov 18, 2022

New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network is asking people to “consider their health care options” before going to an emergency department as hospitals grapple with “critical” staff shortages.

In a release Friday, the health authority said it’s reducing capacity in Horizon emergency departments Saturday and Sunday.

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“Emergency Departments are always available for emergencies, and if you are experiencing a medical emergency, please visit your nearest Emergency Department or call 911,” the release said.

“Patients with the most critical health care needs will continue to be prioritized.”

However, those without urgent medical needs are asked to consider other options, such as calling Tele-Care 811, visiting an after-hours clinic, consulting with a pharmacist or booking a virtual appointment through eVisitNB.ca.

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People can visit SoWhyWait.ca for additional information to choose the best option for care, the release said.

“Utilizing other options helps ensures New Brunswickers can access the care they need, as well as ensure our emergency department teams can continue to provide safe, quality and timely emergency care,” it said.

Examples of medical emergencies where people should call 911 or visit an emergency department include:

  • Discomfort or tightness in the chest;
  • Signs of stroke;
  • Unusual shortness of breath;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Prolonged and persistent headache or dizziness;
  • An injury that may require stitches or involve a broken bone;
  • Children with prolonged diarrhea or vomiting;
  • Babies under six months of age with a fever of 38°C (100.4°F) or higher.

Non-urgent medical needs best suited for alternative options include:

  • Sore throat, toothaches or earaches;
  • Possible bladder infections;
  • Rash;
  • Testing for sexually transmitted infection;
  • Lower back pain from lifting or twisting;
  • Flu symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, chills and fever;
  • Prescription refills.

“We remain committed to helping everyone who needs medical care in our province,” the release said.

“Actively recruiting and retaining physicians and nurses to the communities we serve is one of our top priorities, in addition to improving patient experience, addressing patient flow and increasing access to services.”

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