Nova Scotia

Cape Breton loses only thoracic surgeon

Cape Breton's only thoracic surgeon says a lack of operating-room time has convinced him to quit.

Cape Breton's only thoracic surgeon says a lack of operating-room time has convinced him to quit.

Dr. Russ Gowan is leaving at the end of June after eight years with the Cape Breton District Health Authority.

He said the district is constantly in crisis mode, and he's tired of it.

"I feel very badly for this decision, for the people of Cape Breton," he said Thursday.

"Things have been managed in this hospital for quite some time on crisis basis, where staff are pushed and pushed to the brink of exhaustion, and this leads to burnout, loss of staff."

It's only then that management responds, he added.

Gowan said the breaking point came when he couldn't get enough time in the operating room.

He has a new job lined up in New Brunswick, and warns that other doctors may leave too.

"It's something that's much bigger than myself," he said. "There's a number of physicians now who are entertaining similar decisions."

'Tried to do the best'

District CEO John Malcom said operating-room time had to be cut last year when 10 nurses retired.

"I believe we have tried to do the best. I realize, however, that when we did experience significant reduction it did have an impact on our surgeons and our patients, and I accept responsibility for that," Malcom said.

He said the 10 operating-room nurses would be replaced by the summer. In addition, he said, the waiting list for surgeries is being reduced.

But finding a new thoracic surgeon is more difficult.

Malcom said the hunt for a permanent replacement would begin right away, but he hopes to have someone in place temporarily in July.

Gowan said the only way to fix the ongoing problems in the district is to make changes in management.