Emergency closures down province-wide-- up recently in Digby

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Emergency department to be closed 8 days in December

Emergency department closures

Emergency department closures are down across the province but recently up in Digby.

The Department of Health and Wellness released their annual accountability report this week on emergency department closures.

Departments across the province were only closed 17,717 hours between April 2011 and March 2012.

That’s 1,200 less than the year before, a decrease of 6.4 per cent.

The report also shows a 50 per cent drop for Digby from 563 hours in 2010/ 2011 to 240 in 2011/12.

The emergency department accountability act requires the government to release the stats every year.

This year the government went further than the legislation requires and included extra stats for six communities that have seen a recent ‘dramatic” decline in closures.

Parrsboro, Springhill, Tatamagouche, Pugwash and Annapolis Royal all have new collaborative emergency centres – the centres in Annapolis Royal and Pugwash weren’t closed at all between September 2011 and the end of October 2012.

The Health Department said it would take ‘some time’ to gather those extra stats for Digby. Courier staff took five minutes to add up the hours announced in the paper.

The Digby emergency department was closed 255 hours in the same time period. 240 of those hours came in the six-month period between May and October.

This fall closures have risen steadily in Digby from two shifts or 16 hours in September, six shifts or 72 hours in October to eight shifts or 96 hours in both November and December.

“We haven’t seen the improvement in Digby they have seen in the rest of the province,” says Digby mayor Ben Cleveland. “It looks like we are going to have to fix our own problems here.”

The town and the municipality are currently considering a request from South West Health to increase their doctor incentive package to $60,000 a year each. The hospital foundation is putting up $1 million for Digby’s new medical centre and the town and the municipality are committed to providing up to $500,000 each for the centre as well.

“Meanwhile we only have one emergency room doctor and he is being told not to put in the hours he has because he is being overworked.”

Cleveland says the pay difference for emergency department doctors in Digby compared to other parts of the province doesn’t help.

“It doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to me,” says Cleveland. “The money they want us to offer in incentives is nothing compared to the extra money the doctors make in Halifax.”

The accountability act also requires the health authority to hold public consultations in communities (like Digby) that have experienced a pattern of ongoing closures, and report on the outcomes of those consultations directly to the Minister of Health and Wellness.

Last July those consultations in Digby drew a crowd of two.


December emergency closures

The Digby General Hospital emergency department will remain closed Wednesdays and Fridays through December.

Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 14 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 21 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 26 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 28 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

South West Health apologizes for any inconvenience these closures may cause. 

They suggest Digby County residents visit the nearest open emergency department or collaborative emergency centre. But call first to make sure it is open.

Dial 911 in the case of a health emergency; paramedics can administer live saving treatment during transport to hospital.

In non-emergency situations, residents can call 811 to speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week for advice.

When you go to any emergency department bring your Nova Scotia health card, a list of your medications and a list of allergies.

South West Health suggests the following ways to stay healthy and to help avoid a trip to the emergency department:

wear your seat belt and drive safely

wear safety equipment at work and play

wear non-slip footwear

remove loose wires and things you may trip over,

don’t smoke

wash your hands often

don’t drink and drive.

Organizations: Department of Health and Wellness, Pugwash and Annapolis Royal, The Health Department Digby General Hospital

Geographic location: Digby County, Annapolis Royal, Cleveland Halifax Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • sherrie kearney
    December 12, 2012 - 20:25

    I think Dr. Ron is awesome for sticking with us, Digby. He is a great doctor who really takes his time to find out what is wrong with the people coming into the ER treating them with respect and kindness. He has helped my family and myself on several occasions. A lot of doctors these days (seems to me) are interested more in the business side of medicine, the money, than the treatment of patients. I hope the next doctor Digby manages to get won't pick up and move on in a year or two. Dr Ron deserves a big pat on the back and a heart felt "Thank You".

  • Sherri
    December 05, 2012 - 18:27

    So good ol' Dr. Ron is being told not to work too many hours. What a laugh! He worked 5 ED shifts last week (including two 24 hour shifts) as well as a day at Dr. Westby's clinic and he'll be doing the exact same thing this week. SWNDHA alleged he was "overworked" last year when they cut two of his shifts but, now that the ED is suffering from major closures, they're willing to let him work himself into the ground. The only thing SWNDHA did was create the original closures so they could qualify for funding for a medical clinic no one I've spoken to thinks is a good idea or believes will attract doctors to the area. They (the SWNDHA administration) have been using Dr. Ron as a pawn in their political game. I find it surprising that he commented recently that he wouldn't be leaving. After all the bull the man (and every other doctor here) has had to tolerate, I'd be out of here as soon as possible! Incentives will not help attract or keep doctors when you have an administration that has no respect for the local hospital or its doctors.