Top News

EDITORIAL: Provincial government needs to do a better job keeping rural ERs open

A year ago Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey, in admitting that frequent closures of emergency departments around Nova Scotia is troubling, said his department and the Nova Scotia Health Authority were working on a variety of solutions to reduce those closures and help ensure the emergency services Nova Scotians have come to depend upon would be available when needed.

Yet, a year later, and the release of the latest accountability report on emergency departments in Nova Scotia shows we are no further ahead today than we were then. In fact, if you dig into the stats, you’ll find emergency room closures in some locations – such as North Cumberland Memorial in Pugwash and All Saints Hospital in Springhill – show the situation is worse.

The report, released Dec. 19, indicates the ER in Springhill was closed 3,177 hours between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 – compared to 1,530 hours during the same period in 2017-18. In Pugwash, the ER was closed 3,132 hours in 2018-19, compared to 2,212 hours in 2017-18. It was also up in Parrsboro from 1,784 hours in 2017-18 to 2,511 in the most recent report.

It’s a stark reality for residents in those three communities – not knowing when the emergency departments are going to be opening and losing confidence in a system that has been broken for years with little, or no, hope for a solution anytime soon. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

We also cannot forget the frequent closures of the ERs in the county’s three collaborative emergency centres has also had an impact on the emergency room at the largest’s facility – the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre. It has resulted in longer waits, and coupled with the large number of people without a family physician, it can make those waits even longer and more frustrating.

There is no magic bullet that’s going to solve the problem and there’s a strong likelihood that it’s going to worsen before it gets better as more physicians consider retirement and there are fewer nurses, partially as a result of retirements and also because of more lucrative opportunities outside Nova Scotia and Canada.

If there is a positive, it’s the work of the local recruitment and retention committee that was born out of series of health care rallies across Cumberland County in the summer of 2018 and a rallying cry of Amherst physician Dr. Brian Ferguson, who expressed his concerns for the future of the regional hospital amid declining services and low morale amongst medical staff.

That situation, thankfully, has improved and the community committee, that has representatives from Amherst, Oxford and the Municipality of Cumberland as well as from the medical staff is working to attract new doctors and specialists to the county while at the same time working to convince those already here to stay.

As we head into 2020 there’s a possibility a provincial election, possibly as early as this spring. It’s up to the community to make health care, and the provincial government’s utter failure to improve the situation in rural Nova Scotia, a pivotal election issue. Fact is, as much as the province says it’s working on the situation, we cannot have too many more years of increasing ER closures. Not only does it impact people’s confidence in the health-care system, it helps lead to a feeling of despair about the future of Nova Scotia.

Recent Stories