When the NDP government pledged to keep emergency rooms open across Nova Scotia, it seemed like a lofty proposition, considering the difficulty in finding doctors to staff smaller ERs like those in Parrsboro and Pugwash.
With the release of the Ross report and the Better Care Sooner plan, now we know where they are heading with this. We won’t be getting more doctors to staff our ERs in these smaller communities. Instead, we will get new definitions for “emergency room” and “open.”
Parrsboro Town Council raised its hackles last week about the Cumberland Health Authority’s apparent plan to turn the county’s three smaller ERs into “collaborative care centres,” even though the details of what such a move would entail have yet to be revealed.
What we do know is that the vast majority of ER visits come during daytime hours, therefore it seems somewhat wasteful to have these departments fully staffed when the services are rarely required. The collaborative care centre system proposed by Ross would be suitable in these situations, with nurses assessing patients while having contact with doctors, paramedics and hospitals at their disposal.
On the other hand, collaborative care centres are certain to result in more trips to Amherst to receive necessary care. This raises the question of whether or not the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre is ready for increased ER visits, and whether patients are willing to endure long, bumpy drives to see a doctor about something they might not consider serious enough. These patients could decide not to seek help at all, and the results of that could be disastrous.
A lot of preparation work is needed before collaborative care centres can become reality in Cumberland County. In the meantime, the public needs to give the idea a chance, but only if they are kept properly informed.