N.B. doctors believe 16-day lockdown will help ease pressure on hospitals: medical society
New Brunswick’s medical society says the move to Level 3 of the province’s COVID-19 Winter Plan will help alleviate pressure on staff in the healthcare system – pressure that’s reached a breaking point.
With 103 people being treated in hospital with COVID-19 across the province as of Friday, restrictions will begin at midnight Friday, and last 16 days until midnight Jan. 30.
Dr. Mark MacMillan says the 14 to 16 day shutdown is strategic, and has worked in other parts of the world.
“It allows healthcare workers who are currently off isolating to finish their isolation and get back to work, that’s part of it,” he said.
“We also know that giving the system enough time to sort of slow that spike or stretch it out will hopefully prevent a massive influx of admissions to hospital for COVID.”
The Edmundston Regional Hospital has 30 COVID-positive patients, the Georges Dumont in Moncton has 10, and Chaleur Regional has 12.
Of Vitalite Heath’s ten major hospital centres, seven are operating above 100 per cent capacity, and 154 of its staff are out after contracting the virus.
“As we face the fifth wave of the pandemic, the Network is working at maintaining the health care system in place for New Brunswickers. We understand that this period can be worrisome. The Network is committed to communicating proactively with the public as often as necessary,” the network said in a release.
At Horizon Health, 231 staff are off work, 124 in the Saint John area alone, and the network has had to postpone 594 surgeries so far this month.
Saint John Regional is also treating 28 COVID-positive patients, and the Everett Chalmers Hospital is treating nine.
“I’m a gastroenterologist and normally I would be doing multiple procedures per week, usually between 25 and 30 a week. I’m averaging now, five to eight. That’s because we’re trying to limit the number of people coming into hospital but also because our nursing staff is being redeployed to areas they’re required to be in,” said Dr. MacMillan.
Horizon Health also sent out a notice Friday, “urging patients to refrain from presenting to our hospitals for medical appointments unless contacted directly by a hospital representative.”
“Elective surgeries and non-urgent appointments for Horizon’s ambulatory clinics, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services are being postponed as health care workers are being re-assigned to areas where staffing support is most urgently needed,” said Kris McDavid, a spokesperson for Horizon Health.
Oncology is the only exception. Those appointments are continuing at both Horizon and Vitalité hospitals.
Province plans to move some patients to emergent long-term care beds
The Department of Social Development is trying to find vacant long-term care beds so they can move some patients out of hospital and alleviate some of the strain on the system.
On Friday, the department said about 645 people are waiting in hospital across the province for a long-term care bed.
“At this point, it is still too early to predict how many beds we will be able to create or will need. The department is working with its partners to assess the availability of beds and the number of placements that could be done in the coming weeks,” said spokesperson Rebecca Howland.
The New Brunswick Special Care Home Association says it has several hundred beds available, but many of the patients in hospital are not assessed to go to a special care home.
That will likely change because of the situation and association president Jan Seely feels her sector can accommodate many of the patients. It’s something they have been asking the province to consider for years.
But she is calling on the province to compensate special care home workers in response.
“Use this sector to fix the assessment system so that people don’t have to wait in hospital,” she said.
“Let’s figure out a way to wrap services around our seniors and vulnerable people and put them in the special care homes. But in order to do that effectively, we need staff, we need qualified, trained staff and we can’t do that for $14.50 an hour.”
She says they have asked the province to reinstate the $3/hour COVID relief pay for these workers and to pay them retroactively back to September of 2020, when that relief was halted.