Local ER closures increasing

Local ER closures increasing

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
January 13 2021

GUYSBOROUGH – While the world has been bracing for a health care crisis due to COVID-19, Nova Scotia has been coming to grips with a health care crisis in the ER.

In a press release last week the Nova Scotia NDP stated, “The Liberal government’s continued neglect of emergency rooms in Nova Scotia has meant ER closures increased by 30 per cent in 2019/2020.”

In years gone by, Guysborough Memorial Hospital (GMH) was one of the few community hospitals in Nova Scotia to never be listed on the temporary ER closure notices sent out to media outlets across the province. That started to change in the 2017-2018 fiscal year when temporary ER closures at the hospital were first noted in the province’s Annual Accountability Report on Emergency Departments.

Since that time, the number of hours reported for temporary closures have only gone up. In the latest accountability report, Apr. 1, 2019 to Mar. 31, 2020, GMH logged 266 hours of temporary ER closures.

Assessing year-over-year closures, from 2019 to 2020, the picture looks much worse. In data provided by Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) spokesperson Carla Adams, GMH had 362 and 541 unscheduled closure hours – respectively – an almost 50 per cent increase in the span of one year.

The story at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso isn’t any better. The hospital had 476 temporary ER closure hours reported in the Apr. 1, 2019 to Mar. 31, 2020 Annual Accountability Report on Emergency Departments; up from five hours in the previous report.

Canso had a reduction in year-over-year unscheduled closure hours from 481 in 2019 to 338 in 2020. Compared to earlier years, this decrease isn’t significant enough to assuage the public’s concern about the state of health care in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

The most recent accountability report issued in Dec. 2020 stated that numerous initiatives are underway to ameliorate ER closures including: a new contract with physicians, increased number of seats for nurse practitioner and physician training at Dalhousie University, emergency department locum program for doctors, an expanded clerkship program for medical students in rural communities, a new Practice Ready Assessment Program to help internationally trained family doctors work in Nova Scotia, and continued support and investment in physician recruitment programs.

The NDP is calling for the government to invest more money in the health care system.

“We have a health care system that was in crisis before the pandemic hit,” said NDP health spokesperson Susan Leblanc. “This year’s ER report shows that our hospitals are struggling to keep things running with the resources they have. We need a government that’s ready to support frontline workers and ensure that emergency rooms are open when people expect them to be.”

MODG residents will be happier and healthier when the recently erected signs indicating whether the ER is open or closed are no longer necessary.

Annual Accountability Reports on Emergency Departments are available at https://novascotia.ca/dhw/publications.asp.