When Dr. John Ross released his plan for improving emergency medicine several months ago there were many wondering if the provincial government had the fortitude to carry his vision forward. However, as Premier Darrell Dexter and Health Minister Maureen MacDonald came to Parrsboro Wednesday to announce the province's first collaborative emergency centre it appears as though government is determined to do just that.
Establishing collaborative care centres fulfills a key commitment of the Better Care Sooner program. These centres should allow rural hospitals to deal with seemingly neverending closures of their emergency departments. In Parrsboro, the ER was closed 1,277 hours and sometimes patients had to wait two to three weeks or more to see their family doctor.
The collaborative emergency care centre will provide patients with access to primary health care through same or next-day appointments. There will be advanced access to care in that a number of set appointments will be left open during the day in case patients arrive with more urgent needs while there will still be access to 24/7 emergency care in that patients will still be able to come to the emergency department day or night. The only difference is a paramedic will be onsite overnight, supported by an EHS oversight physician to ensure patients get the care they need.
While members of the opposition, and indeed members of the community may question the fact there will no longer be a physician in the ER around the clock, the dwindling number of physicians and the increased capabilities of paramedics and the popularity of nurse practitioners should make this scenario work.
One of the things Ross found during his cross-province tours was a number of people using ERs for routine matters such as the common cold or an upset stomach. When he submitted his findings to government he said it needed to think outside the box instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Hopefully these new centres will fix what has been becoming a very ill system.