PUGWASH – The Nova Scotia Health Authority is urging people to always call 911 when they are facing an emergency, especially when the local emergency room is closed because of a lack of a physician.
There was some confusion during a health care meeting Pugwash on March 25 about what happens when people show up at the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital, or other collaborative emergency centres, when the ER is closed because of a lack of physician coverage.
The authority said there are nurses on duty at the hospital, but it’s still recommending people call 911 when facing an emergency – and that includes when the ER is open and staffed.
“If a patient, unknowingly, presents to a closed CEC due to no doctor available, the nursing staff will assess the patient and respond according to protocols that they have,” the authority said in a statement. “Without a doctor present, registered nurses are limited to what they are able to do independently for patients, but they will always do what they can to help.”
There are a number of minor ailments nursing staff can treat without a doctor present such as minor abrasions and scratches, minor burns, head lice, ring or simple fish hook removal, tetanus administration as well as suturing and staple removal.
They also have protocols in place to handle emergency situations, but they may not have the staff or equipment available to treat a potentially life-threatening illness or injury as efficiently as possible.
“It is always advised to call 911 or visit another emergency department in these (emergency) cases,” the statement said. “If someone’s life is potentially in danger (chest pains, severe pain or trouble breathing), call 911 immediately – it is available 24 hours a day. Nova Scotia’s highly trained paramedics will respond with emergency medical care you can trust and take you to the right hospital for the care you need. Treatment can often start immediately and sometimes a trip to the hospital can be avoided.”
Most Nova Scotians with a valid health card are charged $134.52 for emergency transport to a hospital from home and this may be covered by personal health insurance.
If people have symptoms and they’re not sure what to do they can call 811 and talk to a registered nurse. This system is also available 24/7.
Residents without a primary care provider can call 811 to have their name placed on the Need a Family Practice provincial wait list.
During the day, people who present to an open ER will be assessed by a nurse and then seen by a doctor or the most appropriate provider.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and other providers are part of a health-care team that also includes dieticians and nutritionists, mental health professionals and occupational and physiotherapists. It also includes access to diabetic education, addictions and mental health services, palliative care and respiratory therapy.
During the night, the CECs are staffed by nurses and/or EHS paramedics who will assess a patient and then call an offsite emergency doctor to collaborate on a plan for care.
People could be released with a plan for self-care, it may be recommended that the patient have a follow-up appointment with the clinic or the CEC the next day, or the patient may be transported by ambulance at no cost to a larger hospital for treatment.
Ambulances cannot take patients to a CEC overnight so treatment will start as soon as the ambulance arrives and they will be taken to the most appropriate regional hospital or tertiary site.