Three emergency departments have been forced to temporarily close because too many doctors and nurses are off sick with COVID-19, the Horizon Health Network announced Thursday.
The Oromocto emergency room will be closed Friday, the Sussex emergency room will be closed during the evenings Friday through Sunday, and the Sackville emergency room will be closed all weekend, according to a news release.
"All patients and clients requiring urgent medical care will need to seek treatment at other hospitals and ambulances will be diverted to other hospitals," it said.
Horizon spokesperson Kris McDavid could not immediately say how many doctors or nurses are off sick with COVID at each hospital.
But 27 Horizon employees have tested positive for the virus in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, as of Thursday morning, 44 employees have tested positive in the Saint John region, Zone 2, and 15 in the Moncton region, Zone 1, he said.
The ER at Oromocto Public Hospital closed Thursday at 4 p.m. and won't reopen until Saturday at 8 a.m., "due to COVID-related illnesses among staff," Horizon said in a news release. The ER is normally open from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., daily.
The Sussex Health Centre's ER will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. each day.
And the Sackville Memorial Hospital ER will be closed all day Saturday and Sunday. It will reopen Monday at 8 a.m., according to the release.
"As always, people experiencing a medical emergency should call 911," Horizon advised.
People with non-urgent medical needs can call Tele-Care 811 if they have any questions about the type of medical attention they require, or can book a virtual appointment through eVisitNB, it said.
This is the second week in a row the Sussex and Sackville ERs have had reduced hours because of staffing shortages.
The Sussex ER was closed last Saturday from 5 p.m. until Sunday at 7:30 a.m. because of a nursing shortage, while the Sackville ER closed last Thursday at 4 p.m. and didn't reopen until Saturday at 8 a.m. because of a doctor shortage. Horizon did not indicate whether those shortages were COVID-related.
Horizon apologized Thursday for any inconvenience the latest closures may cause.
"We are actively working to recruit physicians and nurses to reduce temporary closures and resume services to the communities we serve," it said.
Horizon remains committed to providing safe and quality care, and the decision to temporarily close the [emergency departments] is made to ensure safe care for our patients and clients."
New Brunswick recorded four more deaths from COVID-19 in the past week, the number of people newly admitted to hospital because of the virus jumped to 22, compared to six the previous week, and 1,915 new cases were reported, up from 1,025, figures released Tuesday show.
More increases are likely, including the possibility of a new wave, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, has said.