N.S. nurses union shows solidarity with paramedics on ER overcrowding problem
A day after Nova Scotia paramedics called on government to do something about overcrowded emergency rooms, nurses are doing the same.
The NSGEU says staff working at the QEII’s emergency room were so overwhelmed with patients Wednesday night, they wanted to call a Code Orange.
A Code Orange is an emergency response that's put in place when there's a mass casualty event.
The union says at one point Wednesday, 99 patients were waiting to be seen in the ER and that they were working short-staffed. There were three fewer registered nurses than required and 42 patients left without ever seeing a doctor.
A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority confirms Wednesday was an “extremely busy night” at the QEII emergency department. Patient levels were high and a number of staff members were out sick. They also say hospitals across the province are operating at “exceptionally high capacity,” which is resulting in overcrowding in ERs.
NSGEU president Jason MacLean says the emergency room situation has reached “a boiling point” that's unsafe for both workers and patients.
“We've been saying for a long time that the health care is in crisis and not only that, anybody who goes to the emergency department or has their operation cancelled or whatever can tell you that there is a problem,” MacLean said. “Wait times are long, people have fewer doctors, and people cannot get the servicing that they deserve -- that they pay for as taxpayers.”
Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey said the province is working to address concerns.
“We are working -- and by working -- bring together the many partners in the health care system to identify paths to improve patient flow and care delivery for patients in the emergency department and other parts of our health care system as well,” he said.
Delorey says he has reached out to the health authority for more information on that call for a Code Orange on Wednesday night.
The last Code Orange at the QEII was in June 2017 when five trauma patients arrived in a short period of time. Before that, it was in March 2015 when an Air Canada flight had a “hard landing” at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Amanda Debison.