NB ER Closures Highlight Staffing Challenges and Worries About the Future
Emergency department closures in Oromocto, Sussex and Sackville, N.B., on Friday and over the weekend have some worried about the future of their emergency rooms.
New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network says the closures are an “absolute last resort” for the next few days due to staffing shortages due to COVID-19.
Oromocto ER was closed Friday, but will reopen Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
The Sussex Health Center Emergency Department will be closed for evening and overnight shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Sackville Memorial Hospital Emergency Department will be closed all day Saturday and Sunday, reopening Monday morning at 8 a.m.
“Our pre-existing staffing challenges were magnified this summer following a recent increase in COVID-19 activity, as well as the need to provide our staff with vacation time,” a Horizon spokesperson said. in a press release. “We are working on a number of strategies to improve emergency services across all of our hospitals and are committed to providing sustainable access for residents.”
“We are on the front line. And we meet people every day, and sometimes we don’t know what their medical condition is,” said New Brunswick Medical Society president Dr. Mark MacMillan.
This highlights how necessary recruitment is. So much so that it caused Horizon to change a policy that required family doctors to work shifts in the Sackville emergency department.
“This condition has presented a significant impediment to our recruiting efforts in Sackville, as very few candidates are interested in managing a family practice while taking on additional ER duties,” said Dr. Jody Enright, Medical Director of ‘Horizon for Moncton and Sackville. .
Since removing that policy, two doctors have stopped working at the Sackville emergency department so they can focus on their family practice.
The mayor of Sackville believes his pain is short term, for long term gain.
“We see it as a long-term win for us to attract more family doctors. I mean, that’s a big goal here,” Shawn Mesheau said. “We are talking about emergencies but it is so important that we have access to primary care. If that means that these doctors, who are no longer available for emergencies, have more time to devote to care This might help alleviate some of the issues with our emergency department.”
Mesheau says he’s been given every indication that the hospital’s emergency department has a future, perhaps even a return to its normal 24-hour operation.
“There is still talk of a complete closure of Oromocto Hospital,” said Oromocto Mayor Robert Powell.
He says their hospital serves nearly 30,000 people in the Sunbury County area.
But Horizon hasn’t given him any indication that a shutdown might happen — that just remains a concern.
“If you close this hospital and these 28,000 people head to Fredericton, you think the line and the waiting list is long now – it will be twice as long,” he said. “The hospital system would be in a mess in the district of Fredericton here.”
Most hope these closures are just a moment in time.
“Like across the country, we are going through a human resources crisis. There are not many of us,” Dr. MacMillan said. “And as more of us are getting sick after contracting COVID or having contact, that’s going to put additional strain on the system. So for all New Brunswickers, we need you to know: COVID has not gone away.