Premier Darrell Dexter
PUGWASH – The premier was in Cumberland County yesterday to officially open Pugwash’s collaborative emergency centre (CEC) at North Cumberland Memorial Hospital and announce $2 million in startup money for a new CEC facility in the community.
The CEC began operating in September.
“In the year prior to this, the emergency room had been closed for almost 1,400 hours,” said Premier Darrell Dexter.
ER closures have been a perpetual problem over the course of his political career, said the premier. There have been no closures of the Pugwash CEC since it opened, he claimed.
The $2 million will be in the province’s 2014 budget, according to Dexter. The money will be spent planning and designing a dedicated CEC facility for the community (the current CEC is housed, with some renovations, in the hospital) which will connect to East Cumberland Lodge. Its expected North Cumberland Memorial will be torn down.
Dexter said the success he feels CECs are realizing couldn’t happen without willingness from the community, leadership from the health authority and buy-in from staff.
The premier also spoke about the lead he feels Nova Scotia is taking nationally with the CEC-model. He pondered the history of Medicare, with its Saskatchewan and Tommy Douglas origins, and highlighted the interest Saskatchewan has shown in bringing the Nova Scotia-style CECs to that province.
“I wonder what (Douglas) would think today,” said Dexter.
Dexter was of the opinion CECs may help with rural recruitment efforts aimed at general practitioners. His sense was they would promote a better work-life balance for physicians – doctors aren’t overnight in the ER – and give them quicker access to their patients.
The chair of the Cumberland Health Authority board, Bruce Saunders, said the CEC in Parrsboro was initially met with skepticism. Residents were concerned about a doctor not being present on-site overnight, for example.
But residents also weren’t happy waiting a month or more to see their physician, said Saunders, which is one of the reasons CECs were brought in – to provide same or next-day medical appointments, in addition to 24-hour care, according to a provincial press release.
Saunders said the Pugwash CEC is going well.
Ann Keddy, spokesperson for the Cumberland Health Authority, said the $2 million is to get the wheels in motion, but the final budget for the CEC facility will be higher. She anticipates groundbreaking in 2014.