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Almost 700 N.B. health-care workers off the job due to COVID-19; health minister says system is 'managing'

Between Horizon and Vitalité Health Networks, Ambulance New Brunswick and Extra-Mural, 698 health-care workers in New Brunswick are off the job because of COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

That’s an increase from 633 workers over the last week.

With hospitalizations also on the rise – with 178 reported on April 2 versus 142 on March 29 – Dr. Mark MacMillan, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, says the system is being impacted.

“I spoke to a colleague (Monday) who was very upset his entire surgical list was cancelled for the day,” he said. “Not because he had COVID, not because his nurses had COVID, but because there wasn’t enough nurses to help run that room because other nurses were out with COVID.”

MacMillan says, although measures are not being mandated, he’s hoping more consider doing them anyway.

“Our backlogs are not getting addressed, they’re getting longer,” he said. “We only foresee that getting worse if we don’t find a way to get our colleagues back to work. We need to find a way to encourage New Brunswickers to protect themselves and by protecting themselves, they protect us as well, and keep our health-care system functional.”

According to Horizon, the surgical backlog has increased 10 per cent from January through to March. The surgical waitlist sits at 17,704 - up from 15,892 as of Jan. 1.

“Much of this can be attributed to the shutdown of elective surgeries at the height of the Omicron wave,” said a Horizon spokesperson. “Despite these challenges, Horizon has carried out 6,594 surgeries so far this year, compared to 1,464 postponements, over 1,100 of which occurred in the month of January.”

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says, “on the whole the networks are managing through a difficult time." She adds she hasn’t received any calls for support from the regional health authorities.

“If the RHA’s need to postpone some services until we have capacity of staff, they will be making those calls,” she said.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday New Brunswick is at the “tail end of the fifth wave” of COVID-19, and doesn’t believe it has entered the sixth wave yet.

Health-care workers off due to COVID-19 include:

  • Horizon: 247
  • Vitalité: 364
  • Extra-Mural: 41
  • Ambulance New Brunswick: 46

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