Councillor Bruce Phinney’s recent 16 hour and 20 minute wait to see an emergency room doctor in Moncton gave a sense of drama to Tantramar Council’s meeting yesterday with the interim president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network.
“I’m sorry you waited 16 hours,” Margaret Melanson responded after Phinney asked when round-the-clock, seven-day ER services would be restored in Sackville.
“I would say that we are not close in the immediate future,” she said. “I would say we are months out.”
She explained that Horizon is looking for at least two more full-time doctors to help staff the ER.
“I really don’t want to re-introduce additional hours and then have to retreat again from that,” she explained.
Eight hour ER service
The Sackville ER is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The restricted hours began nearly two years ago in June 2021.
“Our next leap would hopefully be that we would be able to be open until at least midnight and then from there, look at what will be the model for an overnight service availability,” Melanson said.
She added that Horizon is pursuing a few expressions of interest from ER doctors.
“But, I couldn’t give you a date today as to when we would be ready to introduce that [24-hour service] again, but I will tell you, absolutely, that is our goal.”
Earlier, Melanson told council that the nursing staff at Sackville’s hospital is now at full strength with the hiring of two additional, full-time ER nurses and six, additional, full-time nurses for the 21-bed Brunswick Unit that provides acute and longer-term care.
When Phinney acknowledged that there are emergency room delays all across New Brunswick, Melanson agreed, but said things are improving.
“We are doing much better than we were and we’ve also increased a great deal our efficiencies within the emergency departments,” she said.
For his part, Phinney said he felt the long wait was worth it because of the care and attention he received from hospital staff.
“I applaud the people that work there,” he said. “They deserve medals, what they had to put up with and how they performed their services was just unbelievable and they should be commended every day for what they do.”
Phinney said later he went to the Moncton ER about two weeks ago on a Saturday with what he suspected was an infection in his swollen right eye.
“I had to go all the way to Moncton because the ER was closed here,” he said. “It shows why it’s so important to have an ER in Sackville that’s open 24/7.”
Phinney arrived in the Moncton ER at 5:08 p.m., was triaged at 5:25, and then waited until 9:15 Sunday morning to see a doctor.
“I was worried about losing that eye. My face was swollen. It was aching and pretty painful,” he says.
During his long wait, staff came around regularly to check on patients and take their blood pressure.
He says staff also had to deal with disturbances caused by loud and unruly patients.
“I can’t say enough about how good the staff were and the doctor,” he says. “I can’t thank them enough.”