Nova Scotia

Amherst hospital feeling impact of N.B. overnight ER closure, doctor says

An emergency room doctor at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, N.S., says the hospital is already seeing an increase in patient numbers after cuts were announced to overnight hours at a neighbouring New Brunswick hospital.

Reduced hours start in March, but Dr. Brian Ferguson says people are already crossing the border for service

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says there might be an initial increase in patient numbers at the hospital in Amherst, N.S., because of the reduced hours at the hospital in Sackville, N.B., but it believes admissions could even out over time. (CBC)

An emergency room doctor at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, N.S., says the hospital is already seeing an increase in patient numbers after cuts were announced to overnight hours at a neighbouring New Brunswick hospital.

Earlier this week, the New Brunswick government announced it will reduce operating hours at six hospitals with overnight emergency rooms, including the Sackville Memorial Hospital, which is only 20 kilometres from Amherst's hospital.

The six hospitals will be closed between midnight and 8 a.m. starting on March 11, but Dr. Brian Ferguson told CBC's Maritime Noon the Amherst hospital is already seeing more people come across the border for treatment.

"We're already seeing it because sometimes people misinterpret the [closure] date," he said.

Ferguson said the Amherst hospital has only 18 beds in its emergency room and serves an area with 40,000 people. He said the wait time can be between six and 10 hours, and will only get worse if people from New Brunswick continue to come across the border.

Sackville Memorial Hospital is one of six New Brunswick hospitals that will have reduced overnight hours starting in March. (CBC)

But Tanya Munroe, a department head for the northern zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said she doesn't expect a huge demand at the Amherst hospital because of the overnight closure in Sackville.

Munroe said Horizon Health, New Brunswick's health authority, told her the hospital in Sackville sees few patients between midnight and 8 a.m.

She said the increase in patients at the Amherst hospital might be because of longer wait times at the Moncton hospital.

Munroe said when the Sackville closure takes place, there might be an increase in Amherst patient numbers, but admissions could even out over time.

"[Sackville will have] a facility that essentially opens fresh every day at 8 a.m., with no wait built up overnight, [so] they may realize they're going to wait less time to be seen at 8 a.m. than they might presenting to Amherst at 3 a.m. the night before," she said.

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