Pediatric services in the Edmundston and Chaleur regions have been temporarily suspended, according to Vitalite Health Network, leaving area mayors with concerns about the well-being of their residents.
In Edmundston, pediatric services have been temporarily suspended from Aug. 10 to Aug. 19 and pediatric hospitalizations have been temporarily suspended from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15.
Eric Marquis, the mayor of Edmundston, said there is only one pediatrician in the area and that is part of the reason for suspensions.
“So, naturally, that brings us some situations with the pediatric (department) but also with all the moms-to-be that need to give birth in the upcoming days and weeks and that is a pretty serious problem for our hospital,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
The obstetrics department is also facing issues, according to the regional health authority. A corridor has been set up for pregnant women who may need to be transferred by ambulance to Fredericton or the Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton.
Marquis said there are two vacant positions for pediatricians in Edmundston.
“We spoke with Vitalite regarding the situation right now. What we need to look into is solutions and we as a city need to look at this and how we can be part of the solution,” he said.
In the meantime, Marquis said patients, especially parents, are anxious and frustrated by the lack of service locally.
He said he feels it might come down to more incentives on the municipal level.
“At the end of the day, we know what we can give to our people from our city,” he said. “That is probably the most important part to attract some new people that would be coming here.”
Bathurst Mayor Kim Chamberlain said it has been frustrating to have a lack of pediatric services in her region as well.
“It’s been difficult needless to say with what has been happening,” she said.
Chamberlain, who also is the director of the local multicultural association, deals with many immigrants who are health-care workers, including nurses and doctors, but said they often end up leaving for other provinces with fewer regulatory barriers than New Brunswick.
“I cannot tell you how many families have left Bathurst and went to Quebec because here they were told it’s two more years of university but there it is six months shadowing and they do their exam and they get their licence back. Why is it so complicated here?” she said.
She said it does feel like the northern region is ignored when it comes to health care.
The City of Bathurst has two bursaries that are double the normal amount given to applications in exchange for two years of service within the city.
“It’s very competitive,” she said. “If it means that we can work with Vitalite for the northern part of the region, to entice them, we’re more than willing to be a part of that,” she said in an interview Thursday.
Health authority responds
Vitalite Health Network confirmed there is only one pediatrician working in the Edmundston Hospital. Two positions are vacant, while the other pediatrician is on sick leave.
Dr. Natalie Banville said the doctor who is still working is extremely dedicated and the health authority is grateful for her work, but the doctor needs rest.
“We can look at pediatricians in New Brunswick, it’s difficult everywhere,” she said.
In June, pediatric services at the Georges-L.-Dumont hospitals were temporarily suspended as well due to a shortage of medical staff in the facility.
The health authority currently has an agreement for service with a pediatrician training in Montreal who studied at Laval. She said that is a long-term solution but it is part of the overall effort to improve those services in the north.
She said the priority is always the security of the patient, that’s why they are diverting expecting mothers to other hospitals. It’s safer, she explained.
In terms of the Chaleur, Banville said there are pediatric services but they lack the nursing staff to have anyone hospitalized there. Any patients that are determined to need hospitalizations are transferred to Moncton, she said.
“We do the best we can,” she said.
Banville couldn’t say whether there would be further suspensions of service.
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