Campbellton hospital cuts ICU beds in response to staff shortage

·2 min read
The Vitalité Health Network is temporarily reducing the number of beds in the intensive care unit at the Campbellton Regional Hospital. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)
The Vitalité Health Network is temporarily reducing the number of beds in the intensive care unit at the Campbellton Regional Hospital. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC - image credit)

The intensive care unit at the Campbellton Regional Hospital will be reduced to four beds indefinitely because of a staff shortage.

Sharon Smyth-Okana, Vitalité Health Network's vice-president of clinical services, said a return to full normal capacity will be announced "as soon as possible."

"There will still be an additional bed available in case of overflow. As needed, we will closely work with other regions in the Network to establish safe transfer corridors," she said in a statement.

CBC News has asked Vitalité for the total number of beds in the unit and is waiting for a response.

Reduced services

The reduction in services comes as Vitalité and its northern New Brunswick hospitals grapple with a chronic staffing shortage.

Obstetrical and pediatric services were "temporarily interrupted" in April 2020. Over two years later, the health network says delivery services won't be reopening anytime soon.

The emergency department has also experienced temporary closures, forcing residents to drive long distances to other hospitals in the north.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

Last summer, Campbellton's ICU was closed entirely in response to staffing shortages.

New Brunswick patients were transferred either to the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst or the Edmundston hospital.

Patients from across the Restigouche River in Quebec, including Listuguj First Nation, were given the choice of these hospitals or one in Quebec.

'It has to stop' 

Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau said news of another reduction in services is "very concerning," particularly in a region with an older population.

"It's one after another," he said. "And we fear closures, and closures may come to a full closure here or centralization of services."

Comeau said he spoke with Vitalité on Thursday and was told the situation would be monitored day-by-day.

Alexandre Silberman/CBC
Alexandre Silberman/CBC

The Restigouche Regional Service Commission wants greater involvement in recruitment and retention efforts to help address the staffing shortage. It is developing a plan and will meet with representatives from the health network on Sept. 1.

Campbellton's hospital serves 25,000 people in health Zone 5 and another 15,000 in Quebec.

Comeau said he strongly rejects any proposals to centralize services in the north, such as relocating specialized services to Bathurst.

"We're going to continue to fight for it," he said.

"No way that we're going to let this stuff all go to one place. It has to stop."