Nurses practitioners could hold out patient clinics when the emergency department is closed.
Linda Gregory, the warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby, made this suggestion last week at a public consultation meeting about recent closures of Digby General Hospital’s emergency department. The warden was the only person from the floor of the meeting to make a suggestion or express concern.
The board of the South West Nova District Health Authority held the consultation after their annual general meeting at Digby Regional High School on Thursday, July 5.
“On days when there is no physician available, could nurse practitioners be on duty at the hospital?” asked the warden.
Blaise MacNeil, the health authority, said “the short answer is no.” He pointed out the nurses don’t have the same scope of practice as the doctors and they need to have a doctor on call to handle the cases the nurses can’t handle.
Gregory said after the meeting having someone on duty at the emergency department has to be better than having no one.
“The system works good now when someone comes in with a real emergency,” says Gregory. “They call 911 and the ambulance takes them to the nearest emergency department. Why couldn’t that work in the same way for the cases the nurses can’t handle?
The main reason behind the emergency department closures is physician unavailability and, for the same reason, many residents don’t have a family doctor.
Those patients depend on the emergency department for treatment of chronic ailments or minor ailments. Gregory says the nurse practitioners could handle a big part of those cases.
“It’s the system that is stopping this from happening,” says Gregory. “The government could okay this quite easily—you just don’t call it an emergency department, call it an outpatient clinic.”
Blaise said he could take the idea to the board for further discussion.