Staffing ERS at Shel­burne, Digby hos­pi­tals on­go­ing chal­lenge

South Shore Breaker - - Health & Wellness - KATHY JOHN­SON TRI­COUNTY VAN­GUARD

There doesn’t ap­pear to be any end in sight to the clo­sures of emer­gency de­part­ments at the Rose­way Hos­pi­tal in Shel­burne and the Digby Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal due to physi­cian un­avail­abil­ity.

“Yes, it is true we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing on­go­ing chal­lenges with the emer­gency depart­ment sched­ules at Rose­way and Digby Hos­pi­tals,” said Fraser Mooney, re­gional spokesper­son for the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity (NSHA). “Past ex­pe­ri­ence tells us we face more sched­ul­ing chal­lenges over cer­tain times, such as Christ­mas hol­i­days, sum­mer months or long week­ends. We have found these are times when locum doc­tors may choose to work in their own prac­tices or find locum shifts closer to home.”

With staff at Rose­way and Digby al­ready sched­ul­ing emer­gency depart­ment shifts well into next year, “look­ing ahead, we do have some gaps, es­pe­cially over the up­com­ing hol­i­days,” said Fraser.

“We ex­pect that a num­ber of these gaps will be filled. We will be fol­low­ing up with our reg­u­lar locum doc­tors and shar­ing our sched­ule with oth­ers across the prov­ince,” he said. “Staff will work to try to fill any gaps right up un­til the last minute, usu­ally the day be­fore the clo­sure. From time to time we are faced with last­minute sit­u­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, if a physi­cian who is sched­uled to work has to call in sick, or they are un­able to make it be­cause of the weather, it is tougher to find a locum to fill in on short no­tice, but it has hap­pened.”

With the ex­cep­tion of the ded­i­cated, full-time emer­gency doc­tor at the Digby hos­pi­tal, for the most part the NSHA de­pends on locums or tem­po­rary doc­tors to staff the ERS at Rose­way and Digby hos­pi­tals.

“One thing we are do­ing to main­tain emer­gency depart­ment ser­vices is work­ing to iden­tify new locum doc­tors,” said

Mooney. “For ex­am­ple, one of the re­cent Dal­housie Fam­ily Medicine Res­i­dency grad­u­ates based in Yar­mouth has been do­ing some emer­gency depart­ment shifts at Rose­way. For the long term, we are fo­cus­ing our re­cruit­ment ef­forts and work­ing to cre­ate strate­gies that will al­low us to main­tain emer­gency ser­vices in places that have seen clo­sures, like Rose­way and Digby.”

Re­cruit­ment on­go­ing

Aside from re­cruit­ment ef­forts to find physi­cians to pro­vide emer­gency depart­ment cov­er­age, the NSHA is still re­cruit­ing for fam­ily doc­tors, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and oth­ers to pro­vide pri­mary care, in­clud­ing re­cruit­ing for the po­si­tions of the doc­tors who are leav­ing Digby, said Mooney, not­ing there has been some suc­cess in re­cruit­ing pri­mary health-care providers to the tri-county area.

“Ear­lier this year, a new nurse prac­ti­tioner be­gan see­ing pa­tients in Digby and at the Is­lands Health Cen­tre on Long Is­land. As well, Shel­burne got a new nurse prac­ti­tioner when Maria Ceschi­utti joined the fam­ily prac­tise team back in Sep­tem­ber,” said Mooney. “While the new nurse prac­ti­tion­ers do not work in the emer­gency de­part­ments, they are pro­vid­ing pri­mary health care to more peo­ple in Shel­burne and Digby. These pa­tients who are part of a col­lab­o­ra­tive prac­tise will not have to go to the emer­gency depart­ment for some ba­sic pri­mary health-care ser­vices.”

A new fam­ily doc­tor is also now prac­tis­ing at the med­i­cal clinic in Wey­mouth.

“While we have seen some suc­cess, we know there is plenty of work to do,” said Mooney, not­ing they’d just had a site visit of a doc­tor who is very in­ter­ested in prac­tis­ing in Shel­burne County. “It is still a few years be­fore the doc­tor will be in a po­si­tion to make the move, but we are hope­ful to make a pos­i­tive an­nounce­ment in the fu­ture.”

Mooney said in both Shel­burne and Digby coun­ties the health au­thor­ity’s pri­mary health­care team has been meet­ing with mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers, lo­cal foun­da­tions and oth­ers to talk about how to im­prove ac­cess to pri­mary health-care ser­vices and to bet­ter share in­for­ma­tion with the com­mu­nity.

“One of the big top­ics dis- cussed at these meet­ings has been re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of health pro­fes­sion­als and how we can work to­gether to pro­mote the lo­cal area,” he said.

Mooney said the NSHA is adding re­sources and ad­di­tional sup­port to the doc­tor re­cruit­ment team in the zone, has re­cently launched a new NSHA doc­tor re­cruit­ment web­site as part of a larger mar­ket­ing strat­egy and has a re­newed fo­cus on in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal grad­u­ates.

“As a provin­cial health au­thor­ity, we are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to do plan­ning across the zone and across the prov­ince for is­sues like re­cruit­ment and emer­gency ser­vices,” he said. “I have said be­fore that it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that emer­gency de­part­ments in Nova Sco­tia are part of an in­te­grated net­work of emer­gency care.”

While cer­tain sites can be closed from time to time, the over­all emer­gency sys­tem is never closed.

“This is due to ac­cess to Emer­gency Health Ser­vices such as 911, and trans­fers and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween fa­cil­i­ties. One ex­am­ple of this is work­ing closely with neigh­bour­ing hos­pi­tals, such as Digby and An­napo­lis, to co­or­di­nate sched­ules as best we can to help make sure there is emer­gency depart­ment cov­er­age in the re­gion,” Mooney said. “So, there will con­tinue to be chal­lenges in staffing emer­gency de­part­ments, but the work and plan­ning toward main­tain­ing ser­vices con­tin­ues.”

Tina Comeau

Shel­burne Rose­way Hos­pi­tal.

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