Frequent Hants Community Hospital emergency department closures expected this summer

Hants Community Hospital. Photo: Nova Scotia Health

Residents of Windsor and surrounding areas can expect to see frequent emergency department closures at Hants Community Hospital over the next two months. Dr Cathryn Smith, chief of staff at Hants Community Hospital, said there were 27 shifts where no emergency department doctor was available, which would mean closing on certain days and evenings in July and August. Already, the emergency department is experiencing closures. It was closed Wednesday night after a doctor reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, and will be closed overnight tonight.

At a community briefing held on Zoom last night, hospital and Nova Scotia Health officials said priority would be given to emergency department staffing throughout the day. . On average, Windsor’s emergency department sees about 30 patients a day and 10 patients on night shifts. Since this week, in a desperate plea to stay open, the hospital has been offering doctors bonuses of $300 per shift during the summer months and may occasionally hire doctors without specialized emergency training to cover shifts. .

Dr Sam Campbell, who runs the emergency department at Hants Community Hospital, said he was not optimistic it would attract many takers.

“People don’t work for the money anymore,” Dr. Campbell said. “They are tired. They want time off.

Campbell described the following situation for people on the Zoom call, mostly medical personnel and a few citizens.

“We have a patient who has come in and is waiting to go to Halifax. EHS (Emergency Health Services) is busy responding to 911 calls and is unable to tell us when they can come and make the transfer,” Campbell said. “That’s what gives us sleepless nights.”

Dr. Kirk Magee also attended the virtual meeting to discuss the situation in Windsor. Magee is the Chief of Emergency Medicine for Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone, which includes Halifax, Dartmouth, Windsor and the Cobequid Community Health Center in Lower Sackville. Magee says borrowing doctors from nearby hospitals in Sackville or Kentville probably won’t work because most of those hospitals are also understaffed. The Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department is currently advertising to fill more shifts this summer than ever before, he said.

“The reality is that in Canada we are 1,500 emergency department physicians short and most of our colleagues have worked through the pandemic without interruption,” Magee said.

Area resident Suzanne Milburn asked how citizens living in and around Windsor will know if the emergency department is open or closed during the summer. Hospital officials have promised to erect a roadside sign to indicate if the emergency department is closed. They also advised citizens to check the list of temporary closures on the Nova Scotia Health website.

Smith said anyone unsure if the emergency is open should call 911. One of the citizens listening online suggested that with a high proportion of seniors living in the area, radio advertising should be used to inform the public, in addition to using social media to get the message out.

The situation in Windsor is another symptom of a strained health care system. For nearly two years, residents of the East Coast have faced weekly emergency department closures at Twin Oaks Hospital in Musquodoboit Harbor and the East Coast Memorial in Sheet Harbour.

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Lillian L. Pena