The intensive care unit at the Campbellton Regional Hospital is back in service Thursday after a staff shortage forced it to close for two weeks.
In a news release, Vitalité Health Network said the closure was "necessary" because staff was needed at the emergency department.
"The situation remains challenging and the facility is still short of nurses, but things are moving in the right direction and that is encouraging," Dr. France Desrosiers, president and CEO of the network, is quoted as saying in the release.
During the six-unit ICU department's closure, patients were diverted to either the Edmundston or Bathurst hospitals. The network previously said the unit would reopen on Sept. 9.
Brad Mann, chair of the Restigouche Regional Service Commission, said the region includes about 40,000 people, and some were concerned about having to transport their most vulnerable two hours away to get intensive care.
"It affects a lot of people," he said. "When you get [ICU patients], time is of the essence, and it's very critical."
He said multiple patients were transported over the past two weeks.
"Luckily it went okay," he said.
The region includes the Listiguj First Nation and Pointe-à-la-Croix in Quebec, as well as Kedgwick and Campbellton in New Brunswick.
Stepping up recruitment
Mann said it's imperative that the health network tries to fix its staffing problems and attract more employees so such closures don't happen again.
"We just want to keep the services we've got," he said, noting recruitment seems to have been "an ongoing problem."
Mann said staff at the local service district office have been using social media to promote job postings in the area, especially hoping to entice people who have left the area back home.
The district also has representative at the hospital's recruitment department and is lobbying the government and the health network.
"We're going to work with Vitalité but we're also going to make them accountable," Mann said.
The hospital has also been having problems keeping its obstetrics unit staffed.
In August, the network closed the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Campbellton Regional Hospital temporarily.
Expectant parents had to instead travel to the Chaleur Regional Hospital, which is about 100 kilometres away, in Bathurst.
Mann said he wants to thank the health-care workers who have continued to work in the short-staffed hospital.
"The people that work here at the Campbellton hospital are very, very dedicated," he said.