N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Six new deaths, paramedics can 'treat and release' patients
Health minister details handful of expanded primary-care options meant to ease strain on health system
- 'Modelling looks good' for lifting Level 3 restrictions
- 43 workers off amid outbreak at Shediac nursing home
- Health minister unveils measures to ease strain on ERs
- 137 people with COVID-19 are in hospital, including 8 in ICU
- Q league teams training in Quebec
Public Health announced six COVID-related deaths in four zones on Wednesday, bringing the province's death toll from COVID-19 to 221.
The deaths included a person in their 80s in the Moncton region, Zone 1, a person in their 80s in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, a person in their 80s and another in their 90s in the Bathurst region, Zone 6, and a person in their 40s and another their 80s in the Miramichi region, Zone 7.
There are 137 people in hospital as of Wednesday, eight of those in intensive care, including one person who is on a ventilator.
Of that 137, 80 were admitted for reasons other than COVID-19, 107 are age 60 or over, and four are age 19 or under, Public Health said in a news release on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, more than 40 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers, or 303,000 people, have received their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 55 per cent of eligible children aged five to 11 have received their first dose.
Will Level 3 restrictions end Sunday night?
At a health-care news conference Wednesday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard was asked several times about whether the province is still on track to move to the less restrictive Level 2 on Sunday.
The province was placed under Level 3, the strictest level of restrictions, at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14. Premier Blaine Higgs has been adamant that those Level 3 restrictions will end on Sunday night.
Shephard said Wednesday that Public Health will make any announcement around whether or not the Level 3 restrictions will be lifted.
"That's going to be addressed later this week, but I will say the modelling looks good," she said.
Earlier Wednesday, Nova Scotia's Premier Tim Houston announced that province will not be lifting restrictions on Jan. 31.
The current restrictions, imposed provincewide in December, will remain in place until at least Feb. 14 and will be lifted in a "phased approach," he said, noting the timeline will depend on the momentum of the booster campaign, the number of hospitalizations and overall stress on the health-care system.
Restrictions imposed provincewide in December include indoor and outdoor informal gathering limits of 10 people and capacity reductions to 50 per cent for bars and restaurants.
Health minister unveils measures to ease strain on ERs
As of Monday, New Brunswick paramedics will be able to opt to "treat and release" patients on site rather than transport them to the hospital, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard says.
The project, one of two changes to existing programs Shephard unveiled on Wednesday, is intended to help ease the strain on a health-care system struggling under the weight of COVID-19 cases.
Currently, "hospitals are offering urgent and emergency services only as the system strains against the demands of the Omicron variant," Shephard said.
"About 60 per cent of New Brunswick's typical emergency department patients could be treated in a community setting if more timely access was available."
The expansion of the duties of paramedics was a key element of Wednesday's announcement.
It will allow paramedics, whom Shephard noted are "highly trained health professionals," to do a full assessment of the patient and decide whether they should be treated and released at the site or transported to an emergency room.
"We do expect benefits," Shephard said. "We expect ambulance offload delays to get better, we expect people to have better care sooner, we expect less wait times in the ERs. All of these things are going to result in better care."
However, she said, New Brunswickers should still call an ambulance in an emergency.
"In an emergency, such as chest pain, signs of stroke, broken bones or a mental health crisis, I urge you to call 911," Shephard said. "An ambulance will be dispatched to your home."
Medavie president Richard Losier, who oversees Ambulance New Brunswick operations, said the new "treat and release" option could eliminate as many as 20,000 ambulance trips to hospital a year.
He echoed Shephard's comments that people should continue to call 911 for an emergency, noting "it's very important that that is clear."
However, he said, there are too many instances of people calling ambulances when they shouldn't be, and instances of people suggesting others do the same.
"Unfortunately ... some people post on social media that if you want to get through to the emergency department faster, call 911 and get an ambulance," he said.
"That is totally false, that concerns us dramatically when we see that."
Changes to some services, reminder of others
In addition to the new "treat and release" option for paramedics, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard also announced changes to the Tele-Care 811 phone service and reviewed other services that can help ease the strain on primary-care providers and emergency rooms.
Tele-Care 811 expanded:
- The Tele-Care 811 phone service, which provides 24-hour access to a nurse and referral to additional services, has been expanded. It will now include in-person community appointments and virtual appointments that can be accessed within 24 hours, Shephard said Wednesday.
Pharmacists can provide additional treatment:
- Pharmacists can now renew many prescriptions, regardless of whether the patient has a primary care provider. They can answer questions about medications, prescribe treatment for minor conditions such as urinary tract infections, skin conditions and fungal infections and answer questions about vaccinations.
Walk-in clinics and virtual walk-in clinics:
- Walk-in clinics and virtual walk-in clinics can provide a consultation with a nurse practitioner or doctor for common illnesses, injuries, infections, mental health conditions and general health concerns. The services of eVisitNB are being offered at no charge to anyone with a valid New Brunswick medicare card.
Addiction and mental health clinics:
- A new service delivery model called one-at-a-time therapy is now available in most community mental health centres, Shephard said. "These services aim to improve access and reduce wait times, and are available by appointment or on a walk-in basis."
43 workers at Shediac nursing home off work
Forty-three employees are off work amid an outbreak at the Villa Providence nursing home in Shediac, and are either self-isolating because they've contracted the virus or were a close contact of someone who has.
Thirty-four residents have tested positive on a rapid screening test.
A housekeeping company has been hired to help maintain operations, Ronald LeBlanc, the CEO of Comfort Life Network, which manages the home, told Radio-Canada.
During previous outbreaks, LeBlanc told Radio-Canada that staff from homes in Moncton and Neguac were able to help, but this time, Villa Providence is looking for help from homes across the province.
Q league teams training in Quebec
All three New Brunswick-based teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have temporarily relocated to Quebec for training for the duration of the level 3 lockdown.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are in Carleton-sur-mer, the Saint John Sea Dogs are in Rivière-du-Loup, and the Moncton Wildcats are in Quebec City.
"High-level athletes cannot stop training for an extended period of time and be able to perform at the same level," said Titan general manager Sylvain Couturier, in a press release from the team.
The Sea Dogs general manager, Trevor Georgie, said allowing players to continue training is "vital for their health, morale, and psychological well-being."
"Our players need to be ready to play games once we restart and high-level athletes can't stop training completely over an extended period of time," said Georgie.
Hospitals near or beyond capacity
Public Health also announced on Tuesday that four hospitals in the Horizon Health Network are nearing or beyond full capacity, with COVID-19 outbreaks being reported in
The Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton is at 101 per cent capacity, the Moncton Hospital is at 96 per cent capacity, and the Saint John and Miramichi regional hospitals are at 93 per cent capacity.
There were also outbreaks reported in multiple units at six hospitals, including:
Saint John Regional Hospital, outbreaks in nine units
- The Moncton Hospital, outbreaks in six units
Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, outbreaks in two units
St. Joseph's Hospital, outbreaks in two units
Ridgewood Veterans Wing, outbreaks in two units
Oromocto Public Hospital, outbreak in one unit