A Cape Breton doctor says patients on the island are not getting proper care due to a lack of resources.

Dr. Margaret Fraser, an emergency room physician at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, says there is a “severe overcapacity problem.”

“There are no beds in any of the four hospitals in the immediate area,” says Dr. Fraser. “The emergency department is having to function as a ward, and that is something we are very ill-equipped to do.”

Dr. Fraser says the beds that should be made available to ER patients are occupied by people who are waiting for long-term care or have medical problems and are not well enough to go home.

Betty MacLeod says she waited seven hours inside the Cape Breton Regional’s emergency department.

“I don't like it. It's a long time and I've seen people that were turned away from hospitals,” says MacLeod.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority blames the problem on an influx of patients, something they say happens at different times of the year.

“It's not unlike what's being experienced elsewhere in the province or country in certain times of the month or year. Depending how sick people are and what they're looking for when it comes to emergency services,” says health authority spokesperson Greg Boone. 

Fraser feels more resources are needed in hospitals in the long term, especially in the emergency department.

“Care is being delayed, and this is dangerous for the patients and it's dangerous for staff,” she says. “We're seeing patients in hallways. You can't do a proper exam in the hallway” 

The health authority says patients are never turned away, but for patients like Betty MacLeod, a delay in being seen by a doctor could have been a lot more serious.

“When I finally got in there, the doctor said to me, ‘Why weren't you red flagged?’ She said, ‘You're ready to go into a coma,’” MacLeod says.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.