'We were caught off guard': Sackville, N.B. hospital closes emergency room on weekends
SACKVILLE, N.B. -- Emergency room services will once again be reduced in Sackville, N.B., taking many in the community by surprise.
The health authority announced the Sackville Memorial Hospital will shut down its emergency department overnight on weekends as a temporary solution to its staffing concerns.
Newly elected Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau says he was unaware of the decision.
"First of all, we were caught off guard," says Mesheau.
According to executive director Nancy Parker, starting Friday, the emergency room will temporarily close each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. and resume regular daytime services at 8 a.m.
During that time, anyone seeking medical attention will be directed to a different hospital, with the closest being 40 minutes away in Moncton.
The closure is due to staffing shortages. There are nine full-time registered nurse positions available on the unit and currently, only six are filled.
"As we enter the summer, it certainly brings new challenges to us. We have to balance our responsibilities to provide health care, with the need to provide staff with a reasonable amount of vacation time," says Geri Geldart, vice president of clinical at Horizon Health Network
The decision comes more than a year after Premier Blaine Higgs announced six emergency departments across the province would be closed overnight. He ultimately scrapped the decision a week later.
“We cannot keep an ER open if we do not have a safe number of staff members to provide the care there. It is dangerous, not just for the patients, but it is dangerous for the staff," says Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.
New Brunswick Green party leader David Coon says he's "extremely disappointed" that the province has gone back on its promise, and "the minister of health didn't find a way to ensure those ERs would be able to operate."
But for Mesheau, it's not that simple.
"We have to take politics out of healthcare. This isn’t about politics and broken promises, this is about the health of the people in our community," says Mesheau.
Shepard says it's possible other rural communities will see their emergency room services cut short as well.
There has been no date set for when the Sackville closures may come to an end. Horizon Health says it will depend on the success of recruitment to the area.