Closed hospitals in Cape Breton cause overcrowding, long waits at Sydney ER
Doctors and nurses say there is a crisis in the emergency room at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
Patricia Sutherland says her two-and-a-half year-old granddaughter; Laura, has been battling the flu for days. On the weekend she says she was dehydrated and barely able to keep her eyes open.
Unable to keep anything down, Laura was taken to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney.
“My daughter had her there for over an hour-and-a-half and she wasn't even triaged,” said Sutherland. “They just came out and said it's going to be 5 a.m. before she sees anybody. More or less take her and go home. It doesn't matter what's wrong with her.”
One family physician in Sydney was outraged and took to social media to display her frustration, saying there were sick patients in beds in the hallways as staff was forced to re-purpose random spaces like washrooms to perform assessments. There were 26 admitted patients waiting for beds and only enough cardiac monitors for the sickest.
People are pointing the finger at the provincial government for the lack of resources.
“We pay our taxes,” Sutherland said. “Just like they do in Halifax, just like they do in New Brunswick. Just like they do in the rest of the country. It's not like we're tax exempt. We get no service for it.”
“The waits were so long that Neil MacVicar, our former chief of emergency medicine in the old Cape Breton District Health Authority, sent out an SOS,” said Dr. Margaret Fraser, an emergency physician in Sydney.
That means any medical personnel that could come in were called in.
Fraser came in on her day off and says it was the most chaotic day she's ever seen in the emergency department at the regional hospital.
“When I got there, the first patient I saw was waiting for nine hours and that's unacceptable,” Fraser said. “We had 20 to 30 people leave yesterday and although most were minor complaints, some were big things. And a minor complaint can turn into a major problem if you don't take care of it.”
Fraser says the problem is that demand is greater than they can handle. With ER departments closed in New Waterford, North Sydney and Glace Bay, the pressure is now on staff at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
“This is not unique to Cape Breton or the eastern zone,” said Nova Scotia Health Authority spokesperson Greg Boone. “We've had the experience elsewhere in the province in relation to ER coverage and the increase in volumes through the Christmas period.”
Meanwhile, Sutherland says her family is contemplating moving out of the province altogether if health care is not improved.
Boone says the Nova Scotia Health Authority is continuing to recruit both physicians and nurses to work in the ER departments in Nova Scotia.
He says the health authority apologizes for any inconvenience.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.