Nova Scotia Journal

Emergency department closures in N.S. are double compared to 3 years

Emergency department closures in N.S.

Key Takeaways:

  • Due to staff shortages, 15 hospitals were forced to close E.D.s, and COVID-19 was redeployed.

According to a new accountability report released Thursday, Nova Scotians living in rural communities continue to bear the brunt of emergency department closures, owing primarily to a lack of doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

In total, 15 hospitals outside of Halifax experienced what the government refers to as “temporary closures.” These are the times when hospitals are forced to close their emergency departments unexpectedly or at the last minute due to a lack of staff.

According to a report issued by the province’s Health Department, those 15 emergency departments were closed for a total of 15,056 hours, or 627 days, in the fiscal year ending March 31.

Seventeen of the province’s 38 emergency departments remained open 100% of the time, but E.D.s were available 9,000 hours fewer this year than in 2019-20.

Last year, scheduled or planned closures were much more common. Those shutdowns accounted for 54,272 hours of closure, which is more than triple the number of unplanned hours that people would have had to seek help elsewhere.

Emergency department in Nova Scotia; Image from Healthypictoucounty.ca

According to Health Minister Michelle Thompson, the pandemic would have played a role.

“As part of those closures, staff were reallocated.” “Certainly, COVID has had an hit on the number of scheduled closures that we’ve had,” Thompson said. “Relocating staff to regional centers or into a COVID response team has aided in this.” 

The Parrsboro facility was converted into a family medicine/general practice clinic, discontinued overnight care. The Northside General Hospital was converted into an urgent care facility, providing care to those who sustained unexpected but non-life-threatening injuries. That care was unavailable overnight or over the weekend.

All four facilities had severe issues that necessitated their unplanned closure in 2019-20. 

While larger regional hospitals could keep their emergency departments open, several smaller community hospitals and collaborative emergency centers were unable to do so. The Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, in particular, was available for 56% of its regular operating hours.

  • Among the other facilities that struggled were:
  • The Victoria County Memorial Hospital (73 percent).
  • Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital (76 percent).
  • Richmond Strait Hospital (84 percent).

Source: CBC News

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