N.B. requests four hospitals enter critical state
January 24, 2024
FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick health department has requested to place four New Brunswick hospitals under a critical state procedure, which would allow staff to move long-term care patients to nursing or special care homes. The plan would alleviate pressure on hospitals as Horizon Health hospitals in New Brunswick are, on average, at 106 per cent capacity, according to a news release from Jan. 12.
“We’re trying to ease the congestion in the emergency rooms, and having the long-term care patients go out to a nursing home or special care home with services is one of the options,” said New Brunswick health minister Bruce Fitch.
The Saint John Regional Hospital was placed under a critical state on Jan. 4.
Government officials confirmed on Friday that the same request was made for four other hospitals – the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, Oromocto Public Hospital, Upper River Valley Hospital and Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph.
“I know (Social Development Minister Jill Green) is considering that at this time. We’ve seen it go forward in Saint John, and that would alleviate some of the pressures and some of the issues up at the DECH (Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital),” said Fitch.
The Department of Social Development also confirmed on Friday that they re-evaluated the critical state at the Saint John Regional Hospital this week. The department decided to maintain the critical state for the remaining two weeks of the original 30-day time frame.
This decision is not made lightly, the Department of Social Development told CTV News in an email. It’s only made when a hospital’s emergency room and acute care units are overcapacity and when critical surgeries are being cancelled due to lack of available hospital beds, the email said.
Jan Seely (pictured), the president of the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association, said every meeting she’s had in the past three weeks has been around this topic.
She says they’re actively gathering information and working with stakeholders and partners to see what space is available and who it is suited for.
“There is capacity in the special care home sector to take some of these people out of the hospital right now,” said Seely.
There are about 600 vacant spaces in level two homes, which are designed for someone who is not safe at home anymore but still mobile and able to participate in their care, she said.
However, she said not all the vacancies are suitable for alternative level of care patients. That number of beds gets even smaller when you look at specialized care, like for patients who have moderate to severe dementia or a few medical conditions.
There are only about 26 of those specialized homes in the province, she said.
“We have 29 vacancies in the province for the memory care homes, but for Fredericton for instance, we only have three. Three vacancies. In March, we had 11,” she said.
In total, she says there are almost 7,000 licensed beds in the province and multiple different styles to fit the need.
For example, there are nearly 130 homes across the province that are equipped with extra mural nurses that oversee all residents’ clinical care needs thanks to an extra-mural enhanced clinical care program that the association helped develop.
Seely says they’re designed to provide peace of mind with “enhanced services to ensure residents with more complex needs have that clinical oversight.”
Something similar happened in November 2022, she says, and they were able to move 80 patients in just two weeks.
However, she says it’s a positive thing that there are so many departments, organizations and officials all working together to find solutions.
“This has to happen. I don’t think that our leaders are looking to just (say), ‘Okay there’s a crisis, lets deal with people, move them,’” she said.
“I get the feeling that it’s like, ‘Okay, here we are again, only a year and two months later. We need to figure out a way so this doesn’t happen in another year. So what is broken, what’s too slow, what’s too complex, what’s too difficult?’”
Additionally, Seely says the New Brunswick Special Care Home Association has called for a review to speed up the process from when a patient gets admitted to the hospital to when they’re placed in a special care home.
“When someone shows up at the hospital and they’re not safe at home and they’re having difficulty, they could very easily be transferred to a special care home if they were transferred quickly,” she said.