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The Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton. Image: Submitted/Horizon Health Network

Horizon, Vitalité Give Lacklustre Update On N.B. Health Plan

Dec 14, 2022 | 3:18 PM

Officials from the Horizon and Vitalité health networks delivered a lacklustre update Wednesday morning in relation to the efforts being made to improve New Brunswick’s health-care system.

Dr. Suzanne Johnston, trustee of the Horizon Health Network, began by saying the network is “deeply sorry” for the recent deaths in its emergency rooms across the province. She also apologized to New Brunswickers for overall “instances of poor care” in recent months.

“We are truly committed to learning from what happened and moving towards a change of pace as quickly as we can,” said Johnston. “We apologize on reserve for the distress this has caused to the families and individuals who have lost loved ones.”

Johnston said Horizon’s efforts to identify and implement changes — both small and large — are ongoing. One of the significant improvements focuses on recruitment and retention, she said.

Dr. Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network, told reporters her network made efforts to prioritize innovative approaches to attract the best and brightest to New Brunswick.

“By achieving our plan’s priorities, enhancing health care access, supporting our workforce and streamlining processes, we can deliver the best experience possible to New Brunswickers,” she said.

“Regardless of where people are on their health care journey or their location, we will be driven by a culture of service and comfort.”

When asked about Horizon’s recruitment and retention, Melanson said the network reported since April a loss of 618 staff members, consisting of 342 registered nurses, 148 licensed practical nurses and 128 personal support workers.

However, she said Horizon also reported in the same time frame a gain of 1,134 staff members in these areas.

“We continue to work toward trying our best to support our staff and encourage them to remain in the workforce,” said Melanson.

Other initiatives discussed at Wednesday’s news conference involved Horizon’s approaches to improving access to surgical services, emergency care, and addictions and mental health services.

Melanson said the network also wants to improve wait times for patients to see emergency room specialists, noting that Horizon has hired social workers specialized in addictions and mental health — starting with the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

Failure to access proper mental health services played a role in the death of 16-year-old Lexi Daken, who died by suicide in February 2021. Another patient died in July of this year while waiting for care in that hospital’s waiting room.

She also discussed a priority to improve how patients flow through the health-care system and collaborating with Ambulance New Brunswick on offload delays.

Meanwhile, Gerald Richard, trustee of the Vitalité Health Network, spoke in French about similar initiatives, and also highlighted an “innovative and collaborative” nursing model, which focuses on optimizing the use of skills, resources and teamwork.

Other projects by Vitalité include a partnership with the RCMP on addressing addiction and mental health services and the launching of a geriatric health and wellness clinic at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.

Officials from both Horizon and Vitalité said the public can view recently-launched dashboards that highlight each network’s priorities and progress being made. The Horizon dashboard can be found here and the Vitalite dashboard can be viewed here.

Melanson said she is pleased with the progress made so far but admits there is still work to do.

“We believe that it is through open and transparent dialogue on our progress and challenges that we will continue to build trust with the people that live in Brunswick, while we are improving health care,” she said.


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