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,
wash your hands often
don’t drink and drive.