Sunday, May 9, 2021

Canso stakeholders respond to health services report

  • April 21 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort    

CANSO – The Canso Stakeholder Working Group – with members from the Canso and Area Development Association, Eastern Memorial Hospital (EMH) staff and physicians – met with Nova Scotia Health (NSH) representatives and Mary Jane Hampton, via Zoom on April 12, to provide feedback and further discuss a preliminary report on a health services model for EMH in Canso and Guysborough Memorial Hospital (GMH).

Hampton, who authored the report for NSH, unveiled her findings to local stakeholder groups in March.

During that April 12 meeting, the stakeholder group outlined concerns about the preliminary report, including worries that Canso’s stable healthcare situation could be negatively impacted by the report’s suggestions that are meant to solve the problem of ER closures currently experienced in Guysborough.

Susan O’Handley, co-chair of the stakeholder group, spoke to The Journal about their concerns last week.

“We are very open to working with the Guysborough community; to share experience and offer our knowledge because we understand they are in a very difficult situation right now. I personally have been speaking with people in the community there the past couple of months,” she said, adding that, while that is true, they would not be comfortable in doing anything that could destabilize the current situation at EMH.

The scenario that O’Handley said could destabilize the status quo at EMH would see doctors from Canso working in Guysborough to cover ER shifts, leaving the Canso ER closed.

“We have grave concerns that the physicians didn’t get consulted, as they should have been, for this report … They are not comfortable with the idea that they would work here and then in the evening go to Guysborough and be expected to go back to Canso to work the next day – but close our (Canso) ER that night so that people go to Guysborough via an ambulance. Let’s face it, EHS (Emergency Health Services) has so many issues right now, we can’t even rely on them [at] this moment. It just doesn’t make sense. Are we going to burn out our doctors? Nobody is comfortable with that idea,” O’Handley said.

She noted the situation at EMH is stable and the community wants to maintain it.

“As far as EMH goes, and the physicians here, we are stable. We have no shortage of nurses, no shortage of doctors. Things are going quite well at this moment for us – not that something can’t go wrong somewhere down the road, things change, but we are hoping we can plan for those sorts of things but at this moment we want to remain status quo. We are a healthy stable hospital, and we want to stay this way,” said O’Handley.

Another point the stakeholder group made was their preference for separate administrators for the two hospitals; currently, the job is held by one person covering both facilities. The issue, said O’Handley, has been brought up – over and over again throughout the years – by staff and physicians.

“This is not to slight the current administration at all,” said O’Handley, “This is a very difficult job for one person to do in two different places. I think we all agreed, whether it was staff or the public, that to be the best we can be and for Guysborough hospital to be the best they can be, if we had two separate administrators … [it] would make a whole lot more sense for both facilities because the focus would be on your own and not trying to be the master of two places that have very different issues to deal with … It is an enormous job for one administrator; it doesn’t matter who it is. It is a lot to expect from one person.”

Another point raised was the need to create, with assistance from NSH, a community advocacy group. The Canso Stakeholder Working Group has been filling that role, but it was formed with a short-term mandate to help deal with the nursing shortage, “which was a short-term commitment of the people at that table to deal with that issue at the time and we were very successful,” said O’Handley.

“We have stayed together as a group to this point because then we went into the physician side of things. Currently, we have four physicians that are working in our community.”

O’Handley concluded that a new group, with a new mandate, should be formed to support the future of EMH.

“The community members are pleased with the cooperation and hard work of everyone looking out for the best interest of our hospital and the recruitment of nurses and physicians over the last couple of years. Our relationship with staff, physicians, management and Nova Scotia Health has been a pleasant experience, which has helped us become a stable hospital with the best interest of the community in mind,” she said.

O’Handley added that the stakeholder group was “reassured at the meeting that everyone agrees Canso needs its own hospital and every effort will be put forth to ensure we remain stable, while working cooperatively and planning for the future, to ensure the best outcome for Eastern Memorial Hospital and the communities it serves.”