Canso hospital's inpatient beds reopen

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
July 8 2020

CANSO – In May of 2019 Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso closed its nighttime ER service and inpatient beds due to a nursing staff shortage. Just over a year later, the six-bed inpatient unit will reopen due to the successful recruitment of RNs to the area.

“As of Sunday, July 5, NSHA (Nova Scotia Health Authority) is reopening the six inpatient beds that were closed in May 2019 due to a shortage of registered nurses (RNs). We have been able to recruit four RNs to Eastern Memorial Hospital and we now have a full complement of nursing staff at our hospital. That allows us to now reopen those beds,” wrote Leona Purcell, the site manager in an email update on Friday, July 3.

“However, as we face challenges with physician coverage, we will continue to operate the emergency department 12 hours daily. We are working with our physicians, our physician leaders and through recruitment efforts to provide for more stability in our physician coverage in an effort to extend the hours of operation of the emergency department. This must be done in a way that is safe for the public, our staff and our physicians,” wrote Purcell.

Susan O’Handley, co-chair of the Canso and Area Stakeholder Working Group said of the news on Monday, “A year of working together with the community and the Health Authority, we were able to recruit the necessary nurses we needed to reopen our hospital…We are pretty excited about it. We’re happy to at least be able to offer this much service for our folks.”

Once the new nurses are fully trained, Eastern Memorial Hospital can reopen completely. The RN’s training schedule, much of which takes place at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, has been severely impacted by COVID-19, said O'Handley.

“Everybody would like everything to go back to normal. And it will, with a little time,” she said, adding that the developing situation at Guysborough Memorial Hospital (with an impending nighttime ER closure) will likely impact the Canso facility.

The stakeholder group, local government and community members have all worked to bring medical services back to Canso. “We want to also recognize our key community partners who greatly support our recruitment efforts," Purcell wrote in her email. "That includes the Municipality of the District of Guysborough which contributed financially to increase the incentives NSHA has available to hire nurses in the area; the Eastern Memorial Hospital Foundation; and the Canso and Area Stakeholder Working Group, which has established a welcome committee to help the new nurses transition to the community. We are very grateful for and appreciative of the support of our community partners. It demonstrates the commitment and dedication of the people of these areas to health services in the area.”