COVID-19: Edmundston, N.B., hospital begins transferring patients to Fredericton

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FREDERICTON — The steady rise in the number of COVID-19 patients in the greater Edmundston area, in northwestern New Brunswick, is forcing health officials to divert patients to other hospitals.

Dr. France Desrosiers, president of the Vitalite Health Network, said Tuesday the intensive care unit at the Edmundston Regional Hospital has reached its capacity to provide safe care to patients on respirators.

Effective immediately, COVID-19 patients from the Edmundston area will be diverted to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, she said, adding that non-COVID-19 patients will be sent to one of four other hospitals in northern New Brunswick.

Desrosiers said the decision to transfer patients will be re-evaluated Thursday.

"The U.K. variant of COVID-19 is hitting the Edmundston area with unprecedented strength," Desrosiers said in a statement. "Many patients with this variant must be admitted due to the seriousness of their symptoms requiring acute care."

Desrosiers said in an interview later on Tuesday that the Edmundston hospital has enough ventilators but has a limited number of staff to operate them.

"It’s not the physical equipment that limits us, but rather the human resources," she said. "It takes a complete team to work a ventilator, so the number of ventilators is currently not the limiting factor.

"Clearly, it’s the staffing and this is why I say we have reached our maximal capacity to offer high-quality services."

Desrosiers said cases of the U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, have been more aggressive than cases involving the original virus, adding that patients admitted to hospital with the disease are younger than patients admitted during the earlier phase of the pandemic.

Edmundston deputy mayor Eric Marquis said the news is difficult on the residents of his city. "It's an unfortunate situation right now since we are in this crisis that doesn't seem to want to stop," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"Being in the red phase for over a week and a half now, having a number of active cases that is very high, having a lot of cases in the hospital, and the fact that we are seeing younger patients in the hospital right now — that is really tough on the population," Marquis said.

"Many people know somebody who is in the hospital right now fighting for their life," he added.

The province reported three new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, including one in the Edmundston region, which has 133 of the province's 162 active reported cases. The Fredericton and Saint John regions also had one new case each.

Health officials confirmed that the seven cases reported Monday in Moncton are connected and are travel-related.

There are currently 18 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 12 in intensive care. New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,665 COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths linked to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press