ICU will remain open

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Health-care officials are breathing a sigh of relief after learning the intensive care unit at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre will not close early Monday because of a dispute between ICU physicians and the province.

AMHERST - Health-care officials are breathing a sigh of relief after learning the intensive care unit at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre will not close early Monday because of a dispute between ICU physicians and the province.

Cumberland Health Authority CEO Bruce Quigley confirmed Thursday that the three internal medicine specialists responsible for the unit - doctors Scott Bowen, Galina Miletskaia and Kris Szczesny - have indicated they will not be withdrawing coverage on Monday as they originally planned.

"The doctors indicated that while they are still supportive of the negotiations that are taking place between Doctors Nova Scotia and Department of Health, they felt an obligation to patients, the ICU staff and the institution," Quigley said.

The physicians and a number of their peers across the province are currently involved in financial negotiations through their bargaining unit, Doctors Nova Scotia.

While the decision allows the ICU to stay open, the three doctors indicated that effective Monday, Oct. 15, they will be reducing on-call availability to a one-in-four day rotation from the present one-in-three schedule.

"The change in the on-call schedule does create challenges for the CHA in providing full-time coverage for the ICU," medical chief of staff, Dr. Ian Sutherland, said. "We will be actively seeking local (part-time) internists to cover the periods of time when the other physicians will not be on call."

The announcements comes just two days after the health authority publicly released its contingent plan that would have seen the ICU close at 7 a.m. on Monday. Those patients in the unit would be left under the care of the most responsible physician until transfer could be arranged to Moncton, Truro, New Glasgow or Halifax.

If the situation does not resolve itself provincially and the doctors are required to withdraw their services, the contingency plan would be put into place.

Longtime physician, Dr. Brian Ferguson, said he's pleased with the decision not to withdraw service from the hospital since it will allow it to continue as a regional facility.

"That reassures me. I was surprised by their militancy and this truly shows the character of those physicians I have worked with over the years," Ferguson said. "I think this is a vote of confidence in how valuable they are."

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Cumberland Health Authority, Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, Department of Health

Geographic location: AMHERST, Moncton, New Glasgow Halifax

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