Carman Kerr understands that emergency department closures are a reality in Nova Scotia and across the country as the healthcare system grapples with worker shortages and burnout.
But the Annapolis MLA is concerned about what he sees as a lack of information for people in his area about what is being done to address chronic closures in Annapolis County.
“We are asking for more information,” the Liberal MP said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
“We the public would like to know what’s going on, what’s the plan, what’s been tried, what’s failed, where are we going – those kinds of questions.”
The Annapolis Community Health Center Collaborative Emergency Center in Annapolis Royal is closed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while the Emergency Department at Middleton’s Soldiers Memorial Hospital is only open every day. days from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
That leaves area residents in need of urgent care going to the emergency department in Digby – a site that sometimes faces its own closures – or Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville.
Kerr wants officials from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Health to come to the area for public information sessions to help people understand what’s going on and what realistic expectations are.
“I think people can handle a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot as Nova Scotians and we’re no different here, so I think people deserve the courtesy of decision-makers being honest.
“The fact that there is no communication is the problem. It just creates anxiety and stress.”
Like most emergency departments experiencing closures, Kerr said the problem in her area is often related to the availability of doctors and/or nurses.
In Annapolis Royal, there are also issues with the availability of x-ray services and reliable ambulance service, he said.
Plan underway for Annapolis Royal
One option could be to bolster services at Digby Hospital to ensure more consistency there, but Kerr said that’s the kind of thing officials should be discussing with the public.
On Thursday, it was announced that the Digby General emergency department would be closed overnight Saturday and Sunday, as well as several times next week.
A health authority spokesperson said in a statement that officials recognize the difficulty the uncertainty is creating for residents of Annapolis County, but plans are underway to provide “the highest level of service possible. for the community” in the fall.
“Nova Scotia Health is working on an interim walk-in service for the site a few days a week,” John Gillis said in the statement.
“Details are coming in and we will share the information with the community as soon as possible. We have established a planning table to begin exploring future models of care for the Annapolis Community Health Center.”
Gillis said health authority officials have had several meetings since the spring with community leaders, community agencies, pharmacists and system partners. In the meantime, he said nurses have been reassigned to support the opening of the Digby emergency department. More resources have also been invested in the Middleton Primary Care Clinic.
In addition to ads in community newspapers and flyers to let the public know where they can get care, Gillis said health authority officials plan to hold sessions with community stakeholders in the fall and have offered to attend a meeting of the municipal council.
Closures are a common problem
Annapolis County’s problems are not unique.
This week alone there are emergency department and after hours clinic closures in Shelburne, Liverpool, Wolfville, Tatamagouche, Pugwash, Glace Bay, New Waterford, Baddeck, Port Hawkesbury, Canso, Neils Harbour, Middle Musquodoboit, Musquodoboit Harbor and Sheet Harbour.
Although some closures are planned, many of them are not. And while pressures on the system have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency department closures have been a chronic problem in Nova Scotia for years.
More recently, there are increasing reports of people leaving emergency departments unseen due to the long waits they experience.
Health Minister Michelle Thompson said in December she was looking to maximize available resources to provide the best service possible to people across the province.
The reality is that some emergency departments are much busier than others. The government has introduced emergency treatment centers in North Sydney and Parrsboro as a way to help these communities, a model that could be scaled up elsewhere.
Thompson said at the time that it was important for communities to be informed and involved in what is happening in their respective areas as steps are taken to try to improve the system.