GLACE BAY, N.S. -- There is some relief for nurses and physicians in the emergency department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney -- as well as the residents of Glace Bay.

Forty-four hospital beds left vacant for nearly a year at the Glace Bay General Hospital are filled with patients once again.

"Oh, it's a really long-time coming," said Kevin Murray. "I didn't think it would happen myself."

After weeks of travelling to Sydney, Murray is now able to visit his wife closer to home at the Glace Bay General Hospital.

"It's been a hassle," Murray said. "You had to go to Sydney or New Waterford or somewhere like that to get treatment."

Murray's wife was given a bed in Glace Bay after some family physicians agreed to resume inpatient care in the community.

"What's happened is that the hospitalist service at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital have agreed to divide up that service and give some of that service to Glace Bay, as well a number of Glace Bay doctors have come back online," said Dr. Chris Milburn of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

More than two dozen beds were left empty at the community hospital last may after doctors in the area and the Nova Scotia Health Authority couldn't come to an agreement on pay parity.  

"When the contract was signed, we were hopeful we would get that situation resolved, but it quickly became apparent it was not going to be that easy," said Dr. Margaret Fraser. "When it didn't get sorted out by Christmas, I was not optimistic that there was going to be any kind of short term solution."

Fraser says both physicians and staff that work inside the emergency department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital are relieved and already seeing a difference.

"It's looking a lot emptier than it did," Fraser said. "I walked through last night and it was Monday and still fairly crowded, but we had a lot fewer people in hallways on stretchers and only nine or 10 admitted patients waiting down there, instead of the 36 that we had last Monday."

Fraser says it's a start and a step in the right direction to improving health care for people on the island and taking the stress off the people who care for them.