The province's health-care system is bracing for a tumultuous four to six weeks as a rising tide of Omicron variant cases sweeps New Brunswick.
More than 500 health-care workers are already off work and isolating because of Omicron-driven COVID-19 cases — 461 with Horizon Health Network and 69 with Vitalité Health Network — Public Health confirmed in a news release late Monday, the same day it reported a three-day total of 2,548 cases.
On Monday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the situation is "stressful," but noted that the health-care system is prepared for what lies ahead.
"We knew this would happen," Shephard said in an interview with CBC News. "We said last week our epidemiological report showed that we would probably be entering 1,000 cases before the middle of this week ... and I think that our epidemiological team has been spot on."
Shephard said all sectors of the system, from frontline workers to the regional health authorities, extramural and Ambulance New Brunswick, have been working together throughout the Christmas holidays to formulate plans to ensure acute services will be available as the situation intensifies.
That could include identifying when and if patients or staff need to be moved "on a provincial scope," and how that will be accomplished.
"We know that this is going to happen fast and furious and that we will be pivoting almost daily to ensure that we have what we need to operate," she said.
"Those plans are addressed every single morning and every single evening, and they have it in hand."
Shephard also stressed that people should be thinking about COVID-19 differently now that the highly transmissible Omicron variant has become the dominant strain, not only to protect themselves but also to avoid putting "tremendous strain" on the health-care system.
"We need to look around us and consider that Omicron is there, wherever we are," she said. "We need now for New Brunswickers to know that COVID is all around them."