January 10th, 2019
Op-Ed: Emergency Care is in Crisis
This weekend, the emergency room at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital was bursting at the seams and doctors are speaking out. When Dr. Margaret Fraser arrived at the hospital, the first patients she saw had been waiting for nine hours. This was the scene on an otherwise normal weekend in January. Imagine how things could have looked had there been a major accident, or God forbid, a disaster.
The demand on the Regional and many ERs in our province is more than they can handle. With community ERs often closed, people have to rely on hospitals further away with longer lines.
In the CBRM, when Glace Bay, New Waterford, and the Northside are closed that’s another 50,000 people on top of the 50,000 the Regional is meant to serve.
But doubling the patient load isn’t the only thing putting pressure on the ER. We know that 20 per cent of our hospital beds are used by people waiting for a spot in a nursing home. Plus the doctor shortage means more people go to the ER who could be treated elsewhere. This is all proof of what the NDP has been saying for years: emergency departments in Nova Scotia are the canary in the coal mine of our entire health care system.
This isn’t new territory. Emergency medicine in Nova Scotia has seen this crisis before. More than ten years ago, the ER at the QEII in Halifax looked a lot like the Regional this weekend. There were patients being treated in hallways, ambulances backed up, and people giving up on getting care at all.
It was unacceptable, and the NDP government took action to solve it. We buckled down and did the work to take pressure off the emergency department. We commissioned a landmark report by Dr. John Ross, which laid out a plan for fixing emergency medicine in our province.
Mental health crisis care was expanded, transfers to the ER from nursing homes were reduced, and nearly 1000 new long-term care beds were opened. Wait times in that emergency room went down.
In December, Minister Delorey was in Sydney to meet with local medical staff about the plan to close two hospitals in CBRM. According to one doctor, he was offered a tour of the emergency room at the Regional but he declined. I can’t for the life of me understand why the Minister of Health would refuse to see the ER of a hospital in this province’s second largest municipality.
It’s abundantly clear that there is no leadership being shown by the Health Minister or the Premier. Our community hospitals must stay open to ensure that Cape Bretoners get the care they need -- we know that to be true, even if our government doesn’t.
Tammy Martin is the MLA for Cape Breton Centre and the NDP Health Spokesperson