N.B. trauma hotline delayed

A new 1-800 phone number designed to connect hospital emergency rooms so physicians can communicate during trauma cases is three months behind schedule.

A new 1-800 phone number designed to connect hospital emergency rooms so physicians can communicate during trauma situations is three months behind schedule.

The special phone line was intended to be up and running by April, but is now scheduled to be operational by the end of June.

Ian Watson, the administrative director of the New Brunswick trauma program, said the line, which will connect hospitals across the province with a trauma co-ordinator 24 hours a day, has been complex to set up.

"We're at the stage now where we can say that all our associated policies, protocols, the technical infrastructure to support this component of the trauma system overall is in place," Watson said.

"We're going to be rolling this out as a phased-in implementation through the month of June."

Watson said officials with the province's trauma network had to ensure that when a physician dialled the number they would quickly have access to key resources required for emergency situations.

System delays

Dr. Marcel Martin, the medical director of the new trauma network, said in February that the number would be in place by April 1.

Dennis Furlong, chairman of the trauma system advisory committee, had also pegged April as the startup when the trauma system was announced in February. Furlong said that the "system can't work without the 1-800 number."

But Health Minister Mary Schryer said she never committed to a specific date, only that it would be in the spring.

Progressive Conservative MLA Margaret-Ann Blaney, the Opposition's health critic, said it has taken far too long to get the line operational.

"The trauma system is incredibly important to the province and having a 1-800 number is a signature piece that should have been in place quite some time ago," Blaney said.

"They should never have announced that they would have this in place two months ago if they couldn't do it."

The 1-800 number was one of the priorities outlined in the provincial trauma network report, released in February.

The trauma system changes were spurred by a car accident in 2005, when Donald Thomas of Tracadie-Sheila waited 12 hours for treatment.

After his accident in the Acadian Peninsula, Thomas was transferred to the Bathurst hospital, but doctors felt he needed more advanced care. It took hours for the trauma centre in Saint John to agree to take him, after another hospital was contacted first.