Nova Scotia

Closing 2 Cape Breton hospitals won't cut operating capacity, officials say

A surgeon in Sydney, N.S., predicts no loss of operating room capacity when hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney close for good.

2 ORs will be lost when New Waterford Consolidated Hospital and Northside General Hospital close

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says wait times for surgeries should not increase because of the changes. (CBC)

Closing two hospitals in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality won't reduce operating-room capacity, officials said this week. 

"Certainly the one thing we're looking at overall is our capacity and the way to reorganize to keep our capacity as is," said Dr. Rod McGory, a surgeon with the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. "We're certainly meeting the demands now and don't want to lose any capacity."

The Nova Scotia government announced in June it will close the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital and the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney. That means their two operating rooms will close. 

But those closures will be offset by two new operating rooms at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney and one at Glace Bay Hospital, said McGory. Operating room staff will also move from New Waterford and Northside to the two other hospitals.

A second operating room at Glace Bay Hospital will perform surgery five days a week, up from the current four.

"We should be [at] the exact same capacity, just reorganized into other facilities in anticipation of the closure of those two facilities," McGory said.

Troy Penney, a director with the Nova Scotia Health Authority's Eastern Zone, also said capacity won't be reduced. He doesn't expect wait times to increase and said staff will monitor it to be sure. 

"This past year, we've actually been able to decrease our wait times for total hip [surgeries] locally, and so 82 per cent of our patients are meeting the six-month benchmark to actually have their hips done, which is a four per cent improvement from last year," he said. 

Attractive model

McGory thinks the changes could help attract new medical professionals, as the collaborative practice models are "a great recruitment tool."

"A lot of newer physicians and physicians that are already in practice find [the collaboration] very appealing," he said. 

The Department of Health has not said when it will close the hospitals. Both will remain open until replacement collaborative-care centres have been built in the affected communities.

Read more stories at CBC Nova Scotia