Border blockade cancelled health appointments in N.S., delayed supplies

·2 min read
This stock photo shows the hallway of a hospital. Upward of 110 appointments at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, N.S., were cancelled Wednesday as a result of the blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border. (Shutterstock - image credit)
This stock photo shows the hallway of a hospital. Upward of 110 appointments at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, N.S., were cancelled Wednesday as a result of the blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border. (Shutterstock - image credit)

More than 100 appointments at a hospital in Amherst, N.S., had to be cancelled Wednesday amid a blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border that left employees trying to get to work feeling demoralized, a hospital spokesperson said.

John Wright, health services director at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, said 110 appointments were cancelled for a range of services including diagnostics, heart and breathing tests and surgical and prenatal clinics.

"Some very time-sensitive tests did need to get rescheduled," Wright told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Thursday.

Wright said the hospital is working to reschedule the missed appointments, but it will take about a week to get fully caught up on the backlog.

He said numerous employees were "incredibly delayed" in their arrival to work — some upward of four hours.

Wright said other workers were not allowed to cross the border because they did not meet the description of a nurse or physician. When asked to clarify who was denying the workers entrance, he said it was a mix of border officials, police and protesters.

 Jonathan Villeneuve/CBC
Jonathan Villeneuve/CBC

"As you can imagine, as we've worked through the pandemic and all the waves that [COVID-19] has brought with it, it was quite demoralizing for some of our employees to have to explain they're an essential health-care worker," said Wright.

A large group of protesters descended on the Trans-Canada Highway on Tuesday in response to new isolation and testing rules for most people travelling to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick.

Police moved in to disperse protesters Wednesday evening and three arrests were made. Traffic was flowing in both directions by 10:20 p.m. AT Wednesday.

Wright said the situation caused "significant operational challenges," but the team rallied together. He said they moved to essential services only so they would be able to respond to any emergency care needs.

He added that staff members that were in the lineups at the border heard from patients that were waiting to attend appointments throughout the province.

"Some of the stories that were shared with our staff are quite disheartening. There were a few babies that were waiting to go to the [IWK Health Centre in Halifax]. There were some surgical patients that weren't able to make it in," said Wright.

"So this was relatively far-reaching, not only for my centre but the province as a whole."

IWK says no appointments cancelled

But in an email Thursday, a spokesperson for the IWK Health Centre insisted there were no missed or cancelled appointments at the children's hospital as a result of the blockade.

Ben Maycock added that there was a delay in receiving time-sensitive specimens to the hospital's lab, but they had since arrived.

Nova Scotia health authority spokesperson Brendan Elliott said in an email that services in programs such as mental health and addictions and continuing care were also impacted.

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