Urgent treatment centres will not replace emergency rooms: N.S. premier
As Nova Scotia looks to expand on its first urgent treatment centre set to open Monday at the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney, N.S., Premier Tim Houston promises the new centres will not replace emergency rooms.
“There’s no intention whatsoever and it will not be the case under my leadership that this is a replacement for emergency rooms. Not going to happen,” Houston said.
The centre will take patients in need of urgent but non-emergency care at the Northside General Hospital, where the ER has been closed for months.
Examples of such care includes simple fractures, sprains, earaches, minor cuts and mild mental health support.
Ambulances will not take patients to the centre and patients must make appointments on a same-day or next-day basis.
“I think it’s positive and I think it’ll help alleviate what’s happening in the biggest hospital in Cape Breton,” said Gordon MacDonald, a CBRM councillor.
MacDonald described it as a bottleneck of people waiting at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital as emergency rooms across Cape Breton close.
He added the new centre in North Sydney could relieve some of the pressure.
“So, we’re very open to watching that model closely and if there are other communities or areas where we can expand that and it’s an effective model, then we will do that,” said Health Minister Michelle Thompson.
Chris Parsons with the Nova Scotia Health Coalition questions how these centres may be different from collaborative emergency centres—known as CECS, which were first proposed in 2010 under the NDP government.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said there used to be about 10 CEC's but there are now only three.
Parsons also questions where the province may find staff to expand these models.
“We want to make sure it’s properly staffed, it’s properly resourced but one thing we’d also like to see right now is the type of staff be expanded,” Parsons said.
“Right now they’re looking at nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians. We think this is good to also integrate, for example social workers, physiotherapists and other experts, paramedics.”
NDP leader Gary Burrill called the urgent treatment centre model a "first cousin" of the collaborative emergency centres.
“But it’s a little bit of a poor first cousin as it doesn’t include actually emergency services,” NDP leader Gary Burrill said.
“I think it is a good step but the actual implementation of collaborative emergency centres, which include emergency services themselves, I think is the way we need to go.”
Houston recognized staffing is a challenge across the province but noted the centre at Northside was community-led and it will work for the area.
“I think what they’re doing there is definitely something that can be replicated in other parts of the province,” Houston said.
“In this case, the community, the healthcare professionals in the community stepped up and we’ll be working with other communities to see where we can do something similar but we know we have to recruit, we know we have to retain. We know there’s a lot of work to be done.”