All 20 of the acute care beds at New Brunswick’s Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital in rural Kent County are being converted to care for palliative and long-term care patients on a temporary basis.
The measure was “made necessary by a shortage of medical resources,” according to Dr. Anick Pelletier, assistant vice-president of medical affairs for Vitalité Health Network.
“Some patients hospitalized at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital and awaiting placement in a long-term care facility in the Kent region will be transferred to the Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital,” Pelletier said in a statement.
While the emergency department remains open with limited hours, those needing admission to the hospital for acute care will be transferred to the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont hospital in Moncton.
Kent County residents are concerned about the plan.
“I think it’s not a very good idea. A lot of people need (the Stella-Maris hospital),” Yvette Martin of Cocagne said Tuesday.
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Martin said that in her experience, the wait times at Stella-Maris were far shorter than at the Dumont.
Joshua Richard of Bouctouche shared concerns the loss of acute care beds would exacerbate overcrowding at the Dumont hospital in Moncton.
“They already don’t have enough space (at the Dumont),” Richard said. “So, it’s gonna put more pressure on the other hospital and just slow everything down more and more.”
Pelletier said the transfers would be “manageable” for the Dumont staff, noting “the average number of acute care admissions at Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital was 0.56 per day in 2023.”
In January, Vitalité requested that the Dumont and the Chaleur Regional Hospital be granted a “critical state protocol” by the province.
The protocol is granted when a hospital is experiencing overcapacity in the emergency department and in acute care to a degree that severely impacts operations, such as long offload delays from ambulance transfers or delays in surgeries.
The request was denied by the Department of Social Development, according to a Vitalité spokesperson.
The Department of Social Development did not respond to Global News’ request for comment in time for deadline.
Kent North MLA Kevin Arseneau said rural New Brunswickers shouldn’t have to bare the full brunt of the healthcare crisis.
“Without acute care, we do not have a hospital. A hospital without acute care is not a hospital,” Arseneau said.
Bouctouche Mayor Aldéo Saulnier said he and the other Kent County mayors are calling for better communication with Vitalité after he found out about the changes through media reports on Monday.
“We represent a population of 33,000 people here in Kent county. I think that all the mayors in this region should have been involved in this decision,” Saulnier said in an interview.
He also said he’s concerned about what this could mean for the hospital’s future, noting that the Stella-Maris emergency room was closed for several days near Christmas due to nursing staff shortages.
“What is the future of the Stella-Maris-de-Kent Hospital? That’s all that we’re asking. To sit down at the table and have a five- or 10-year plan,” he said. “But we do need a plan for the future of the hospital.”
In a statement on Monday, Vitalité said the network is “committed to pursuing their sustained recruitment efforts to resume regular operations at the hospital.”
It wasn’t able to put a timeline on how long the temporary measures would persist at the hospital, saying only that they would be in effect for “a few months.”
Saulnier chairs the board of directors for the Kent Regional Service Commission and said there is a public meeting planned on Thursday to discuss the changes at the hospital.
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