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N.B. works to free up hospital beds

By Brad Perry Jan 31, 2024 | 6:13 AM

New Brunswick is working to reduce the number of patients waiting in hospitals for nursing home beds.

The province has approved the temporary prioritization of patients from the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

Social Development Minister Jill Green approved a similar process at the Saint John Regional Hospital earlier in January.

“This flexibility is needed to deal with exceptional circumstances,” Margaret Melanson, interim CEO of Horizon Health, said in a news release on Tuesday.

Nursing home admissions are normally done chronologically, however, if a regional health authority makes a request, the minister can prioritize admission of alternate-level-of-care patients waiting in hospital.

The change can be enacted for up to 30 days when a hospital is deemed to be in a “critical state,” according to a release from the Department of Social Development.

Such as when emergency departments are overcapacity and there are prolonged off-loading delays from ambulance bays.

It can also occur when acute care units are over capacity or when critical surgeries are cancelled due to a lack of available hospital beds.

“This government understands that there is an exceptional need in some of our urban centres, and evidence provided from Horizon Health Network suggested that implementing this prioritization would assist with that need,” said Green.

“This is not something we do lightly. This reprioritization will decrease the number of patients waiting in the hospital, and instead provide them with the appropriate care in a long-term care residence.”

During a Jan. 14 news conference, Horizon Health said the average occupancy rate at its four regional hospitals — including Saint John and Fredericton — was at 106 per cent, compared to the national benchmark of 85 per cent.

There were 542 patients in Horizon facilities waiting for nursing home and special care beds — representing one-third of all in-patient beds.