The Department of Health will not pay for any more repairs or renovations at the Perth-Andover hospital, which was damaged during the devastating March flood, Horizon Health Network officials confirmed on Tuesday.
As a result, labour and delivery services, which were moved post-flood to the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, 60 kilometres away, will stay there, said Dean Cummings, executive director for the Upper River Valley.
"We only have a third of the space to work in, so we cannot safely provide that service in that facility with the space that we have left to work with," he said.
Inpatient beds at the Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital will also be reduced to 22, from 27, said Cummings.
About 53 employees will be affected, ranging from reduced hours to layoffs, he said.
Thirty will go through workforce adjustment, but the final number of job losses is not yet known.
Emergency, outpatient and surgical services will remain in Perth-Andover.
'It just creates more problems for rural communities to survive.' —Gordon Black, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Victoria-Tobique MLA Wes McLean says he will work to make sure the hospital continues to offer quality health care.
"It's not lost on me. I live in Perth-Andover, and we need to make sure long-term we've got the right mix," he said.
Gordon Black, a regional director with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents some of the workers at the Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital in Perth-Andover, had previously been told by Horizon Health Authority officials that some services would not be brought back.
"Whatever is there now is going to be the services from today. The full hospital is not going to be brought back to before-flood operations," he told CBC News.
Black said he was told the health authority believed the cost of bringing those services back to the hospital would be too high.
He described the latest development as a blow to the western village.
"I think it's sad for Perth-Andover and the area," the union official said.
"It's another loss to a rural community in the province, though this one was done by Mother Nature or an act of God or whatever you want to call it. But it just creates more problems for rural communities to survive."
The Department of Health has confirmed that a "workforce adjustment process" has been put in place for employees at the Perth-Andover hospital who haven't had full hours since the flood.
Government planned to centralize
"News of further cuts to this hospital isn't what people in Perth-Andover wanted to hear, but centralizing services was part of the government's plan all along," said Ross Giberson, who was the chair of the regional health authority when the plan for the Waterville hospital began.
The board felt spreading services thinly across three old hospitals in Woodstock, Perth-Andover and Plaster Rock —that were difficult to staff— was hurting patient care, he said.
"We were aware of conditions in the upper river valley — the condition of the old buildings, the lack of services, the difficulty in staffing," Giberson said.
The original plan included moving labour and delivery to Waterville and maintaining some beds in Perth-Andover to operate as a general hospital, he said.
"When you look at it, two ORs in Perth. How often are they used? What's the numbers at labour and delivery in Perth?"
But when the Liberals won the 2006 election, they cancelled the plan to move services out of Perth-Andover.
A record flood hit Perth-Andover in March. It caused the village of 1,770 people to evacuate about one-third of the community.
The flood level was roughly 1.5 metres higher than the last major flood in 1987.
Patients at the local hospital were transferred to various hospitals and facilities in Grand Falls and Plaster Rock.
The provincial government has already set aside $8 million to relocate or flood-proof low-lying homes in Perth-Andover and the Tobique First Nation.