New Brunswick’s Vitalité Health Network has had to “close” 180 hospital beds across the province compared to just 20 beds closed in Horizon Health Network hospitals.
A Vitalité spokesperson told Global News the bed closures were due to staffing shortages as well as renovations at the George Dumont Hospital in Moncton, the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst and the Edmundston Regional Hospital.
Both Vitalité and Horizon Health Networks have been hiring travel nurses from private temp agencies in order to fill gaps in nursing staff.
This practice has been opposed by the New Brunswick Nurses Union, in part because travel nurses can be paid up to double the rate of staff nurses.
Roughy half of the people on the growing wait list for special care homes are occupying hospital beds, according to data from the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights.
In 2021-2022, a quarter of all hospital beds in the Horizon Health Network were taken up by patients awaiting a bed in a nursing home.
Social Development spokesperson Rebecca Howland told Global News on Wednesday that 899 of the province’s 6,557 special care home beds are currently vacant.
“Vacancies are due to several reasons including but not limited to the lack of available staff,” Howland said in an emailed statement.
Howland noted the province had recently increased the rate of pay for personal care workers by $2.50 an hour in an effort to attract more staff to special care homes.
“Social Development is also working in collaboration with special care home operators to find solutions for individuals waiting for a placement,” the statement read.