No quick fix

Community invited to discuss Canso hospital crisis

By Helen Murphy    

CANSO – A ‘community conversation’ is planned for Monday evening, June 17, to get residents’ input on work to address the nursing shortage that has resulted in nighttime ER closures and a halt to admissions at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso.

Susan O’Handley, co-chair of the Canso Stakeholder Working Group, says she’s hoping to get good feedback from the community.

“I think people need to realize that we all have a role to play in this,” she told The Journal during an interview Monday.

The nursing shortage caused the loss of 24-hour ER coverage and in-patient services starting May 12, 2019. Although O’Handley says she is “feeling really good” about finding solutions, she acknowledges that the process is likely “to take longer than I had hoped.”

So far, O’Handley says there have been some expressions of interest from nurses, but no “official requests” to apply for positions at the hospital.

The working group met with N.S. Health Authority CEO Janet Knox last week.

“She was very committed to working with us to find solutions to this,” says O’Handley.

The group recognizes the need to “beef up” promotion of Eastern Memorial Hospital careers, she said, including all that the local community has to offer.

The working group is looking at both the short-term shortage and longer-term nursing needs at the hospital. O’Handley says it’s encouraging that two local residents have recently been accepted into the accelerated LPN to RN program at StFX University.

Adding to the shortage, she says one of the current nurses at the hospital will be going on maternity leave soon. And another nurse is planning to retire in the spring.

A local resident just graduated from StFX’s nursing program and O’Handley says she is hopeful that the new nurse will be ready to join Eastern Memorial Hospital in the spring, following further hospital experience in the coming months.

Candidates for the Canso nursing positions need specific experience, including ER work.

Monday’s community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Canso Lions Club.