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Margaret Melanson is the president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network. Image: Brad Perry

Horizon Health continues nurse, physician recruitment

By Brad Perry May 9, 2024 | 3:00 PM

Horizon Health recruited more than 900 nurses and 150 physicians over the past year.

That is according to the regional health authority’s latest quarterly report to the community.

Recruitment and retention are one of the critical priority areas identified by Horizon.

President Margaret Melanson said the new staff are spread across the health authority.

“We have these individuals deployed specifically in our areas of highest density, such as Moncton and Saint John, although certainly Fredericton, Miramichi and the Upper River Valley, as well as some who choose to work in communities,” Melanson told reporters.

When taking into account turnover, the health authority saw a net gain of more than 360 nurses in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Melanson said when it comes to physicians, they have recruited a “good blend” of family physicians and specialists.

Overall, the health authority said it successfully recruited more than 2,300 new employees in 2023-24, which also includes 643 personal care attendants.

Recruitment efforts are continuing both internationally, as well as domestically and across North America, said Melanson.

Meanwhile, the president said they are also focused on improving patient flow, which includes transitioning alternate level of care patients from hospitals to long-term care.

More than one-third of the health authority’s hospital beds are currently occupied by ALC patients, including seniors waiting for long-term care.

“ALC is one of the highest priorities, of course, within our health authority,” said Melanson, noting seniors remaining in hospitals when they do not need to create many challenges.

Around 70 per cent of patients admitted through the emergency department end up waiting more than eight hours for an inpatient bed because of this.

Melanson said once a patient is admitted, staff are working as quickly as possible to identify those who may not be able to return home.

The health authority is also working with the Department of Social Development to effectively move individuals into long-term care and to increase the number of beds.

“We know that is something that is going to be required in the coming years. New Brunswick does not have today enough long-term care bed availability for our growing senior population,” said Melanson.

The health authority has a goal of reducing ALC cases to 20 per cent of all hospital beds by January 2026.

Other highlights in the report include eliminating the long-waiter list for hip and knee surgeries and modernizing its 46 Community Health Centre sites.

Overall, Melanson said a total of 54 improvement projects are underway in all regional hospitals, community sites, and among separate departments and programs.