Closed ERs more plentiful in N.S. in the summer
Emergency rooms at seven Nova Scotia hospitals are closed this week.
Some are closed for only a couple of days, but others have been closed several times already this summer.
Sheet Harbour is part of Halifax Regional Municipality, but it has all the makings of a small, tightly knit rural community.
It has a post office, a hair salon and a hospital – a hospital, where the emergency room is consistently closed.
And if Terry Havlik's blood pressure gets too high, he’s supposed to head straight for the nearest emergency room (ER).
He calls the situation “Russian roulette.”
“I had a heart attack about sixteen months ago,” Havlik said.
If Sheet Harbour’s ER is closed, the next stop is over an hour away at Musquodoboit Valley Memorial, but it’sbeen closed several times this year.
So the next stop is either Truro, New Glasgow or Dartmouth -- all over an hour and a half away.
“There's a few times I've played Russian roulette with myself,” Havlik said. “Is it really bad? Is it going to go down?”
A lack of doctors to cover shifts, and summer vacations, mean it’s especially difficult this time of the year to staff ERs.
Sheet Harbour’s was closed on Monday, something that residents say has become all too common.
“I'm nervous that it’s going to take something really serious to happen for it to end,” said Sheet Harbour resident Sidney Kenney.
Some residents are also upset because of the suspension of one of their family physicians who also covered the ER.
CTV News has been told the physician has been reinstated, but still cannot cover the ER for the time being.
Tim Halman, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Dartmouth East, says a lack of resources is to blame for the problem.
“We have a lack of human resources and the government needs to work with our doctors to attract and retain more front-line workers here to the province,” Halman said.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority was unavailable to do an interview but did say that last summer, there were similar closures.
They are also working to find more doctors to fill vacancies, including attending the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians Conference.
In the meantime, concern is only growing:
“(In the) Sheet Harbour area, there’s a lot of resource extraction in the way of farming, fishing, mining and forestry,” Havlik said. “These are all occupations that have the possibility of having a serious accident.”
It’s a fear no one wants to express out loud, but one they fear could become a reality.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.