Weekend services at two N.B. hospitals reduced because of 'critical' nurse shortage

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FREDERICTON — A health authority in New Brunswick is asking people with non-life-threatening medical needs to stay away from its hospitals this weekend due to a "critical" shortage of nurses.

Emergency services at the Moncton Hospital and Saint John Regional Hospital will be cut back "effective immediately" Friday until Sunday, Horizon Health Network said in a news release.

Facilities must reserve their resources to care for those with "limb- or life-threatening medical needs," it said.

"We do not have capacity to triage and care for these patients," the health authority said about people with less serious medical problems.

Horizon CEO Margaret Melanson said she recognizes the seriousness of the situation and the difficulties it may bring to residents of the Moncton and Saint John areas.

The two hospitals are designated trauma centres, with the health authority noting the facilities will care for people with critical medical needs, including those with serious injuries, heart attacks, strokes and difficulty breathing.

Health Minister Bruce Fitch told a news conference that the nurse shortage is due to issues that include sick leave, vacations and transfers. Emergency rooms will remain open for those who need them, he said.

"No one will be turned away," he said. "They're just making sure that people are aware there's other options if you're not in an emergency situation."

Fitch said he understands the scenario can be intimidating and suggested people explore other options such as calling 811 or visiting their local pharmacy if they need immediate medical help.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2022.

The Canadian Press