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Marc Thorne is the mayor of Sussex. Image: Town of Sussex/submitted

Sussex Mayor Disappointed, Concerned By Overnight ER Closures

By Brad Perry Sep 7, 2022 | 10:51 AM

There is concern in the Sussex area after news the town’s emergency department will be closed overnight until further notice.

Starting Sept. 12, the ER at the Sussex Health Centre will close nightly at 8:30 p.m. and reopen at 7:30 a.m. the following day.

Horizon Health said Tuesday that the “temporary” change comes amid staffing challenges, namely when it comes to a lack of physicians.

Marc Thorne, the mayor of Sussex, said the announcement was disappointing, but he knew it was coming.

“I’ve been having a series of meetings over the summer with Horizon, and recently with the CEO and the trustee for Horizon, and they let me know that staffing was becoming very problematic and that a closure would be coming,” Thorne said in an interview on Wednesday.

“As well, I’ve got a great rapport with our local medical community, and our doctors have known that we just couldn’t sustain the ER like we have been with the staffing shortages that are occurring in Saint John.”

Dr. Brian O’Neill, a family physician in Sussex, told reporters Tuesday that the bulk of their ER physicians come from the emergency department in Saint John, which unexpectedly found itself short six or seven physicians.

O’Neill said they are disappointed that the overnight closures had to happen, but “something had to give.”

Despite knowing the temporary closure was coming before it was announced, Thorne said it is still concerning for the community.

“Families are literally going to lose half the opportunity they have to be able to see a physician, and that concerns me greatly,” he said.

“The majority of people who present themselves to our ERs are people without family doctors, but we also have many emergencies.”

Thorne said many residents in the community feel the overnight closure is part of a greater plan to shutter the town’s health centre.

That is an understandable reaction, he said, after the province tried to permanently close their ER overnight in early 2020 as part of health-care reforms that were later shelved.

“I have the assurances from Horizon that they want [the overnight closures] to be temporary in nature and that are committed to maintaining our hospital and want to work very hard towards getting staffing levels up to where they need to be,” said Thorne.

Margaret Melanson, the interim president and CEO of Horizon Health, said there are no plans to make this change permanent.

“I would like to give the Sussex residents my personal commitment that we have an absolute intention to restore their 24/7 emergency department services as quickly as possible,” Melanson told reporters on Tuesday.

“We also need to have a service that is sustainable. We cannot have a situation where we have openings and closures because that is really considered to be unsafe patient care.”

Melanson said they hope to restore 24/7 ER service within a year, adding they should be able to give a more definitive date later this fall.


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