© Christopher Gooding
SPRINGHILL – A spin on how emergency rooms operate in Nova Scotia is being looked on favourably by its island neighour.
Prince Edward Island Health Minister Doug Currie and Finance Minister Wes Sheridan were part of an island delegation who came to Springhill Thursday to observe the region’s collaborative emergency care [CEC] model first hand in hopes of finding a solution to emergency room closures, particularly on the island’s Western frontier.
“The province of Nova Scotia adopted the CEC model based on issues they were dealing with: with access, rural emergency room closures, inabilities where people in rural Nova Scotia access their family physicians,” Currie said. “These issues have lead them to the CEC model is why we’re here today. Because we’re dealing with the exact same issues and we’ve been dealing with the same issues for a long time.”
Currie didn’t commit when CECs could appear in Prince Edward Island to alleviate its condition, but was clearly impressed following the tour.
“The great thing about this is it’s tried, it’s true and you have the data to back it up,” Currie said.
“I’m very interested in moving the CEC model forward,” Currie later said.
Each CEC in the province doesn’t follow a “one size fits all formula,” Cumberland Health Authority CEO Bruce Quigley said. Instead, each hospital caters to patients by restructuring its daytime and nighttime coverage based on demand, staff and location. In Springhill, regular physician hours during the day are followed by a compliment of health professionals at night who work in consultation with a physician.
Adopting the CEC model, Quigley said, first began with admitting the Cumberland Health Authority had a problem to its patients.
“We undertook the process with a lot of face-time with the community, a lot of open discussions with the community. First of all, with the problem that existed and our inability to continue on. The system was not sustainable,” Quigley said. “Then we informed the community about our plans and how their emergent needs would still be met, yet it would improve access to the primary care giver during the day, seven days a week, 12 hours a day.”
“I’m very interested in moving the CEC model forward.” Doug Currie, Prince Edward Island Health Minister
The spinoff for physicians employed under the CEC model has been stronger boundaries between personal and professional and four new physicians have been introduced to the region since the model was adopted.
Before becoming a CEC, the All Saints Hospital in Springhill had scheduled ER closures twice a week because of a lack of available physicians but now closures, while not totally eliminated, are very rare. How those ER hours are being used has changed for the better, too.
“A year ago, before we opened the CECs, we had 265 people come to our ER service for [non-emergency] cases like prescription refills, pregnancy tests,” All Saint’s Patient Care Manager James Pritchette said. “That’s now down to 50. Where do those patients go? They’re getting access to their primary care giver during the day.”
The system hasn’t saved the Cumberland Health Authority any money but it has improved service.
“It’s been cost neutral,” Quigley said.
Springhill is one of three CEC’s in Cumberland County, serviced by the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst for nighttime emergencies. Drive times vary from 20 minutes to 40 minutes.
Prince Edward Island is the second province to express interest in CECs. In November 2012, Saskatchewan announced it will adopt a similar model after touring CECs here.