In an e-mail sent yesterday, Horizon said that patients who require acute-care beds will be transferred to the Moncton Hospital and that the beds in Sackville will be used instead for patients who are waiting for placement in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
The Horizon e-mail says the action was necessary because of an ongoing shortage of nurses.
“We remain committed to resuming acute care at Sackville Memorial Hospital and will continue to work with you to help recruit nurses and physicians to your area,” the message adds.
This latest change follows Horizon’s decision to close all of the Sackville hospital’s evening and overnight emergency room services beginning on November 19th. It means that the Sackville ER is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and that people who need evening or overnight emergency services must go to another hospital.
‘Sad’ and ‘discouraging’
Former Sackville Mayor Pat Estabrooks, who now serves as Chair of the Sackville Hospital Foundation, says the e-mail announcing the closing of short-term, acute-care beds arrived out of the blue on Friday afternoon just before one o’clock.
“This makes me so angry,” Estabrooks says, adding she suspects it was deliberately sent at a time when it might not be noticed.
“They must have known about these staffing problems well before Friday at noon,” she says.
Estabrooks, who is also a member of the Rural Health Action Group that is fighting to keep services at smaller, rural hospitals, says that in spite of its denials, the Higgs government seems to be implementing plans first announced by Horizon in February 2020.
At the time, the premier backtracked on closing overnight ERs and short-term beds after hundreds joined rallies at the Sackville hospital to protest against the moves.
Similar protests in five other rural communities seemed to persuade the then-minority Conservative government to abandon plans to cut services at the smaller hospitals.
Estabrooks says she has e-mailed Higgs to remind him of his promise to maintain hospital services, but adds that in 2016, the Liberals also had plans for cuts in Sackville.
“It’s very sad and very discouraging,” she says.
“When I think of all the people who have raised money for the hospital and all of the people who have given us money, I’m about ready to throw in the towel.”
Nurses take strike vote
Meantime, members of the New Brunswick Nurses Union began a strike vote on Thursday after rejecting the government’s last offer on October 6th.
The union, which represents 9,000 licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners, has been without a contract since December 2018. Its members are among the lowest paid in Canada.
In July, CBC reported that the union had recorded 854 vacancies in the province partly because of deteriorating working conditions, forced overtime, as well as stress and job burnout aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.