New Brunswick

Poor management root of Bathurst obstetrics closures, says lobby group

The president of a francophone lobby group is blaming Vitalité Health Network for poor management, resulting in the recent closures at the Chaleur Regional Hospital's obstetrics unit.

The obstetrics unit at the Chaleur Regional Hospital is expected to reopen Monday

The Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst plans to reopen its obstetrics and neonatal units Monday after a prolonged nursing shortage. But Dr. Hubert Dupuis, president of Égalité Santé en Français, blames "mismanagement" by Vitalité Health Network for the recent closures. (Vitalité Health Network)

The president of a francophone lobby group is blaming Vitalité Health Network for poor management, resulting in the recent closures at the Chaleur Regional Hospital's obstetrics unit.

The unit was first closed in October, reopened for two weeks and then closed again in November. The unit was supposed to reopen again on Jan. 7 but was delayed for another month.

"People pay with their health for a management problem," said Dr. Hubert Dupuis, president of Égalité Santé en Français. "This is not acceptable."

The obstetrics unit at the Bathurst hospital is expected to reopen again on Monday. But Dupuis isn't so sure.

"We'll see this time if they got it right," said Dupuis in an interview with Information Morning Moncton.

Dupuis is blaming the health network's centralization of some administrative positions three years ago.

"They were not taking the right decisions locally or being there, or listening to the nurses and listening to what was not going right during the last three or four years," the Moncton doctor said in an interview earlier this week.

They don't know where they're going to deliver, how it's going to go, who's going to deliver them.- Dr. Hubert  Dupuis ,   Égalité   Santé  en  Français

Vitalité CEO Gilles Lanteigne​ rejected that criticism, saying the management changes have been working for three years, "so it's hard to do a causal relationship between obstetrics and a reorganization of services that took place three years ago."

Instead, Vitalité Health Network is blaming the closure and delay in opening the Bathurst obstetrics unit on a prolonged nursing shortage.

Lanteigne and other officials from the health authority told a committee of MLAs on Tuesday the recruitment of nurses is becoming increasingly difficult. He said a reorganization of the system is needed.

"If you're asking if the system is more fragile today than it was two years ago, I'd say because of human resources and because we haven't made these technological and organizational changes, we are more fragile today," Lanteigne said.

But Dupuis doesn't buy it.

Nursing shortage a long time coming  

Dupuis said the nursing shortage was seen years in advance and nobody took the time to address the problem at a local level.

"This is not well managed and it's not well managed because of the structure that has been put in, which is very centralized," he said.

Dr. Hubert Dupuis says doctors at the Bathurst hospital knew about the nursing shortage for years. (Michel Nogue/Radio-Canada)

"There's nobody that has power and can take the right decision on the floor of these units and that's why we ended up with having ladies travelling much further in New Brunswick weather."

He said doctors working in the obstetrics unit at the Chaleur hospital have already told Vitalité there was a problem and this "catastrophe" was going to happen.

But he said nobody acted until now.

Patients' health at risk

"Now we have a crisis, now we have to do something, now it's time to move," Dupuis said.

There are about 450 deliveries a year at the Chaleur hospital. Since the unit closed, women have been travelling to Miramichi or Campbellton to deliver their babies.

Dupuis said this puts women and their babies' health at risk, describing it as an "anxious situation." 

"They don't know where they're going to deliver, how it's going to go, who's going to deliver them," he said.

"This is not acceptable. This is a failure of the system put in place by Mr. Lanteigne."  

As a small province with more centralized hospitals, he expects this to be a recurring problem in other units across the province. And he said New Brunswickers deserve better.

"What's important in health care are the services and the people that are being served and it's the personnel that are serving our patients," he said.

"New Brunswickers pay for this system."

With files from Information Morning Moncton, Jacques Poitras

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