Doctors at the five largest hospitals in Horizon Health Network say the hospitals are operating "in a state of overcapacity gridlock" and are demanding the health authority and provincial government do something to ease the stress within the system.

hospital overcrowding

The physicians in the Horizon Health Network's acute care hospitals say the system is in 'gridlock' due to the number patients waiting to be placed in different levels of care. (CBC)

"The ERs are filled with admitted patients for days, waiting to get a bed on one of the units," wrote the presidents of the medical staffs at the five hospitals in a letter to Health Minister Victor Boudreau, Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers and Horizon's board of directors and executive leadership team.

"Patients who are dying aren't given the dignity of a private room for them and their family because there are no rooms — a patient dying of cancer is separated by a thin curtain from someone receiving their chemotherapy for treatment of their cancer.

"Mothers and newborns are now forced to share a unit with patients with complex medical needs. Rooms that were made to hold four patients are now holding five patients.

"Patients are housed in the hallways and kitchenettes of units."

The doctors say they have watched for years as the number of "alternative level of care" patients — such as those who are waiting for an available space in a nursing home — has spiralled upward in acute care hospitals.

"Our seniors are left to languish in our acute care hospitals declining physically and mentally, as this is not the proper place to care for them," state the doctors.

'We need a plan of action now.' - Physicians of Horizon Health Network

"The people who do need to come to hospital for urgent care or surgeries can't get it."

The doctors state "We need a plan of action now" and make several recommendations:

  • Reverse the policy on specialized care beds so seniors with physical problems, and not just dementia, have access to them.
  • Increase wages for personal support workers and home care workers and pay for travel to seniors' homes.
  • Move the care of nursing home beds under the Department of Health to meet standardized assessment times for long-term care.
  • Provide extra funding to nursing homes for seniors with extra care needs.
  • Have social workers on call around the clock in hospitals to work with families with complex psychosocial care needs.
  • Provide funding for residential care hospices for patients who are in the last three months of life who can't be cared for at home, but need 24/7 care but don't need an acute care hospital bed.

The letter is signed by:

  • Dr. Chris O'Brien, president of Saint John medical staff.
  • Dr. Sergei Ivantchev, president of Upper River Valley medical staff
  • Dr. Luc Arsenault, president of Miramichi medical staff.
  • Dr. Scott Robertson, president of Fredericton medical staff.
  • Dr. Pam Mansfield, president of Moncton medical staff.

The letter by the physicians was sent last week. They say they have not yet received a response, as of late Tuesday morning.