Concerns raised about emergency care as a third of N.S. ERs close
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:05AM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:29AM ADT
Eleven of Nova Scotia's 37 emergency rooms -- nearly a third -- are closed, leaving Cape Breton Regional Hospital’s emergency room the sole operating ER in the CBRM until Wednesday. While it is vacation season, some doctors say they've never seen this number of closures.
Communities with ER closures include Shelburne, Springhill and Annapolis Valley, as well as the Eastern Shore; most recently, Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital closed for five days. These closures are causing the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to become overcrowded; while ER beds remain empty in hospitals nearby, resulting in wait times with potentially life-threatening consequences for some.
"We have had cardiac arrests in the waiting room and in the triage area," says physician, Margaret Fraser. "So you're always conscious that there may be a patient out in the waiting room who is sicker than they look and who is being harmed by that wait."
Those conditions, she says, also result in less-than-ideal working conditions.
"So you work as fast as you can, but there's only so long you can work flat-out not taking breaks," says Fraser. "Eventually, you get very tired – you start making mistakes."
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says most of the closures are caused by the unavailability of doctors. However, some medical professionals say the problem of recruiting and retaining physicians is also partly to blame – noting wages and financial incentives in the province are not attractive for doctors.
"I could go anywhere else in Canada and be paid better than I'm being paid here," says Fraser.
Fraser notes 30 patients at the Cape Breton Regional ER were waiting for beds on Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, some ER beds in the CBRM will remain unoccupied until the end of August.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald