Am­bu­lance trou­bles plague prov­ince

Closed emer­gency room depart­ments con­trib­ute to the sit­u­a­tion

Tri-County Vanguard - - News - AARON BESWICK SALTWIRE NET­WORK

At 6:15 a.m on Fri­day, Jan. 4, for all of north­ern Nova Sco­tia there was only one am­bu­lance avail­able in Truro and one avail­able in New Glas­gow.

At one point on Wed­nes­day, Jan. 3, there were no avail­able am­bu­lances to re­spond in Halifax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

How­ever, there were at least 19 tied up wait­ing to off­load pa­tients at three area hos­pi­tals.

The union rep­re­sent­ing this prov­ince’s paramedics has been us­ing so­cial me­dia to tweet out the lack of avail­abil­ity of am­bu­lances in real time as part of its Code Crit­i­cal cam­paign.

“The gov­ern­ment hasn’t ad­mit­ted that we’re in cri­sis,” said Michael Nick­er­son, pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Union of Op­er­at­ing Engi­neers Local 727. “We’re say­ing that there is.”

It’s not a short­age of paramedics, he ar­gues, it’s the prod­uct of an over­whelmed health care sys­tem.

The con­tribut­ing fac­tors to am­bu­lances wait­ing with pa­tients at emer­gency rooms are many.

There were just over 12,000 emer­gency room clo­sures across the prov­ince in 2018, more than dou­ble the num­ber in 2017. Most of those were due to physi­cian un­avail­abil­ity.

In this re­gion the hos­pi­tals in Shel­burne and Digby see fre­quent clo­sures of the emer­gency depart­ments. When smaller emer­gency rooms are closed, am­bu­lances of­ten take pa­tients to re­gional hos­pi­tals. Those emer­gency rooms get busier and am­bu­lances have to travel far­ther, putting them out of ser­vice longer.

“We have a fifth of the beds in hos­pi­tals tied up by peo­ple who should be in nurs­ing homes,” NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill said last week. “There’s a lack of new nurs­ing home spa­ces, which is an­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor … Emer­gency rooms are the ca­naries in the coal mines of the whole health care sys­tem. What we are look­ing at is a sys­tem­atic cri­sis.”

On Dec. 30 the union tweeted out that there were zero units avail­able in Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity for a pe­riod of time.

Jeff Fraser, di­rec­tor of pro­vin­cial op­er­a­tions for Emer­gency Health Ser­vices, doesn’t deny there are broader sys­tem­atic is­sues. He also cau­tions that while there are short­ages of avail­abil­ity, they are brief.

“It is a sys­tem that is de­signed to ex­pand and con­tract,” said Fraser. “So as soon as avail­abil­ity goes

down, we have a plan to ramp it back up.”

Be­yond sys­tem­atic is­sues, like closed emer­gency rooms, and paramedics wait­ing with pa­tients at emer­gency rooms to be ad­mit­ted, Fraser noted they’d also had a par­tic­u­larly busy hol­i­day sea­son.

“On Dec. 29 alone we had an un­prece­dented day – we saw 690 calls,” said Fraser. “That would be roughly 20 per cent busier than a

typ­i­cal day for us.”

He added that they have been work­ing with the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity to find ef­fi­cien­cies.

“Our staff work hard ev­ery day to de­liver the ser­vice re­quired some­times in ad­verse cir­cum­stances, but they get the job done,” said Fraser.

“This is­sue is not just iso­lated to Nova Sco­tia. It’s across Canada.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.