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Staffing shortages, hospital closures to blame for long wait times at Maritime emergency departments

Longer than usual wait times are being felt at emergency departments across the Maritimes this long weekend.

“It's very busy in there today and unfortunately, we're currently experiencing what we call 'bed block,' where we have a large number of admitted patients and nowhere to send them,” said Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S.

Nova Scotia Health says people should expect long wait times in all four health zones because of high demand during the long-weekend.

Fraser says hospital closures and staffing shortages are big factors.

“We're working short-staffed. It's a holiday weekend, and usually we'd have seven physicians on and we've been able to do that recently, but yesterday and today we're working with six physicians only,” said Fraser.

In New Brunswick, emergency department closures are becoming a common concern due to a lack of nurses to cover shifts.  

The emergency department of Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, N.B., is asking the public to limit their visits for the entire weekend - except in cases of an actual emergency.

"We can't have a nurse or physician work 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It's not safe and it's also not safe for the physician or nurse," said Dr. Mark MacMillan, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.

"It's been a very trying time over the last two-and-a-half years and people do need some time away."

Back in Nova Scotia, the provincial health authority also says there have been too many cases where staff has faced abusive language and behaviour and that’s adding to recruitment and retention challenges.

“I've had a chair thrown at me myself,” said Fraser.

The Cape Breton Regional Hospital's emergency department is currently the only one open in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality this weekend.

Fraser says, on Saturday alone, some nurses needed a mental break because of the verbal abuse.

“Patients are becoming increasingly frustrated with how the system is working and understandably, but what is not understandable, they are taking it out on the nurses, the doctors and other staff. I've seen a number of nurses in tears the last couple of days and that's not acceptable,” she said.

Emergency departments are open 24-hours a day, seven days a week at regional hospitals and at the QEII in Halifax. 

Nova Scotia Health says people should not hesitate to visit an emergency department if they have an emergency. Top Stories

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