New Brunswick

Closure of 6 hospital beds in Perth-Andover worries community leaders

The people of Perth-Andover and Tobique First Nation are worried about faltering services after six of their hospital beds close next week.

Registered nurse shortage forced bed closures at Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph until June

Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital serves around 12,000 people in Perth-Andover, Tobique First Nation and surrounding communities. Six of its 22 beds will close next Friday. (CBC)

The people of Perth-Andover and Tobique First Nation are worried about faltering services after six of their hospital beds close next week.

Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph serves almost 12,000 people in the northwest.

Horizon Health Network will be closing six of its 22 beds on April 5 because of a shortage of registered nurses, spokesperson Emely  Poitras said.

Poitras said the shortage was caused by multiple vacancies, medical leaves and phased-in retirements.

Marianne Bell, mayor of Perth-Andover, said people are troubled, especially since the hospital is already "bursting at the seams."

"There are going to be people in [emergency] that need to be in beds, there're going to be people in the hallways waiting for beds," she said.

"People are going to feel pressured to try and go home before they're ready to go home, but the doctors will keep them in as long as they need the care."

Chief Ross Perley of Tobique First Nation said he was surprised to hear about the bed closures since he was not notified by anyone.

"We just found out, so we're pretty disappointed that we weren't consulted," he said. "Anytime … the health and safety of our community members will be impacted by the decision made … we're pretty upset."

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley says he's disappointed about the hospital closures and the lack of consultation about it. (Tobique First Nation)

The bed closures come after staff shortages caused service interruptions and long emergency room wait times all across the province.

The Bathurst obstetrics services were not available for months, and the Horizon Health Network had nearly 400 vacant nursing positions across the province at the end of 2018.

Bell said residents are worried that this may be a signal of worse news to come.

"Anytime there's any kind of closure in our hospital we're afraid it's the beginning of something big. Some sort of a worse, more severe closure."

Horizon Health said it's a temporary closure. Poitras said Horizon expects to hire three registered nurses by June, when these beds will be reopened.

'Sick people don't go away'

"People know if they go to our hospital they will get good care from our staff," Bell said. "They're going to be really unhappy when their family members are not given a bed or that have to be in [the emergency room]."

Bell said she's talked with Perley about the need to maintain the hospital services, but she and the chief haven't discussed the closures.

"The sick people don't go away just because the beds are closed," Bell said. "They still need services."

The second closest hospital is in Waterville, 45 minutes away from Tobique First Nation. Bell said that hospital has "no capacity" for more patients.

"It's going to be really hard on the staff to manage all these patients with fewer beds," she said.

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