Imagine that you wake up with a high fever, and you are in a lot of pain. Your first thought is that you are very sick and are in need of antibiotics. In your small rural town, there are no drop-in clinics and limited doctors. You do not have a cheap and immediate mode of transportation to go to neighboring towns for assistance. The only option is to go to the emergency department at the hospital where staff is limited and hours are cut short. This is the reality for citizens living in Sackville, a reality that is becoming increasingly troubling.
Many rural towns in New Brunswick are experiencing a healthcare crisis. This is particularly evident in Sackville, where the hospital is currently experiencing a shortage of doctors and nurses. Overnight hours have been cut since 2021, meaning the ER is only open to the public from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m. The department will even experience full-day closures due to the lack of resources. Although these restrictions were expected to be short-term, their persistence has been frustrating, and even frightening to the community of Sackville.
As recorded in 2021, the town has a population of 6,099, composed mainly of university students, families, and the elderly. There are no walk-in clinics in the town, and there is a short supply of family physicians and doctors. The Wellness Centre at Mt. A offers general health assessments for students by appointment, however other residents, with no means of transportation, are required to go to the ER. With many patients needing non-emergency urgent care, such as quick diagnoses and prescriptions, the services of the emergency department are often misused. Regretfully, this is the only option without hefty expenses. The Maritime Bus only runs one way to Moncton and the taxi fare hovers around $80 one-way. It would be less costly in both time, money, and resources to have a clinic in town.
Whereas waiting in a clinic can be quick, the wait time at the emergency department in the Sackville Memorial Hospital can take up to a full day. Due to the shortage of staff, there is often insufficient time to see all of the patients in eight hours, resulting in further wait times and delays in treatment. For those that require emergency care during hours of closure, an ambulance must be taken to Moncton, which also adds to cost and time. In dire health situations, this is far from ideal.
Since numerous rural towns are losing their emergency departments, city hospitals, like the Moncton Regional, have been overwhelmed with an influx of patients. This has led to increased wait times, less capacity, and a strain on resources, which was especially apparent during the pandemic. This is why it is continuously important to implement a solution for maintaining New Brunswick’s rural hospitals, while providing a decrease in stress on both staff and patients.
Horizon Health is presently working to improve the healthcare services for smaller communities. They are recruiting more staff to work in rural hospitals, including the Sackville Memorial Hospital, which will receive a new doctor this fall.
The community acknowledges the hard work and determination of staff at the Sackville Memorial Hospital through this tough time.