AMHERST - Pugwash is getting a new doctor and a second nurse practioner to help ease the pressure on the area's strained health care service and on the often-closed emergency room at North Cumberland Memorial Hospital - at least after today.
"There have been ongoing gaps in physician coverage in the ER at North Cumberland," said Cumberland Health Authority CEO Bruce Quigley. "While the situation has improved over the past few weeks, we knew we needed to recruit another doctor for the community who could be part of the ER rotation."
Despite Tuesday's announcement, however, the emergency will be closed again today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"There were a couple of outstanding coverage issues," said Cumberland Health spokeswoman Ann Keddy. "He just started last Tuesday and it appears from this point forward it will be much better."
Keddy said due to unexpected illness and vacation time there could still be times when the ER is closed, but nothing like the approximately 35 closures at the Pugwash hospital since May.
"Certainly not like the magnitude we have been seeing," she said.
Joining the Cumberland North Rural Practice Network (CNRPN) is Dr. Prabhu Benjamin and nurse practioner Julie Johnson, both recently joined the practice on a full-time basis.
Quigley said the health authority is very happy to have the pair in the Pugwash area.
"We are pleased to have recruited a physician with Dr. Benjamin's extensive experience," said Quigley.
"We are also pleased that Ms. Johnson has chosen to begin her nurse practitioner career in the Pugwash area."
Benjamin and Johnson are joining the practice with Drs. Peter Blaikie, Brian McFarlane and Ron Rondeau and nurse practitioner Lynn Miller.
Johnson is a native of Wallace and recently completed a Master of Nursing degree at Dalhousie University from where she also holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science and a diploma in Health Services Administration.
Prior to embarking on her nurse practitioner training, Johnson worked as a registered nurse and clinical educator and during her studies, she worked as a community health nurse/nurse practitioner student at the Pugwash clinic.
Benjamin comes to Pugwash from Forteau in Newfoundland and Labrador, where he has been working as a family physician in a collaborative practice since 2006.
He is a graduate of Madras University and Chengalpattu Medical College in India.
Prior to coming to Canada, he worked as a general practitioner with the Ministry of Health in Seychelles for 12 years.
He and his family are residing in the Pugwash area.
Practice manager Beryl MacLean said patients are encouraged to see the care provider that is recommended when they call for an appointment.
"We want people to know that it isn't necessary to see the same provider at each visit. The different partners work as a team to ensure patients receive the best care possible. Patient records are maintained by the practice and are available to the care provider who sees the patient on their next visit."