The interim president and CEO of New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network says they are working on improvements as emergency department wait times and hospital capacity remain at critical levels.
Margaret Melanson told reporters Friday that staff at Horizon’s four regional hospitals are “extremely busy.” The average occupancy rate for their hospitals is 106 per cent, above the national benchmark of 85 per cent.
“When our hospital occupancy levels are above 100 per cent, there is a direct impact on the wait times within our emergency departments,” Melanson said, explaining that patients who need acute care services need to wait in the emergency department until an inpatient bed is available.
“This means longer wait times for people experiencing non-urgent medical issues.”
Melanson said “seasonal pressures” like the recent holidays and respiratory disease season are further clogging emergency rooms.
She said a “major surge” of patients are presenting to emergency departments, a “significant number” of whom are very ill. As well, there are ongoing staffing shortages due to ongoing vacancies and illness.
“This is always a busy time of year for our emergency departments, but this year was especially trying,” she said. “This situation is representative of ongoing challenges facing our health-care system right now.”
Patient speaks out about N.B. hospital capacity issues
The emergency room situation in New Brunswick has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. Over the holidays, Vitalité Health Network, the province’s francophone health authority, asked that people avoid two of its emergency rooms unless they required critical care.
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Members of the public, as well as the New Brunswick Nursing Union, the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Medical Society, have spoken out about overcrowding and high wait