Nova Scotia

Surgical services in Bridgewater, Kentville reduced to urgent and emergency cases only

The changes will remain in place for the next two weeks as the system copes with the effects of COVID-19.

Emergency department at Soldiers Memorial Hospital closed for 2 weeks, staff redeployed

The emergency department at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton will be closed for the next two weeks so staff can be redeployed to nearby Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The emergency department at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton, N.S. will be closed for the next two weeks and the regional hospitals in Kentville and Bridgewater are shifting to only urgent and emergency surgical services beginning today.

The changes will remain in place for the next two weeks as the sites grapple with the ongoing strain caused by COVID-19.

"Western Zone facilities are significantly overcapacity with increased inpatient COVID demand coupled with staffing shortages," reads a statement from Nova Scotia Health.

"In order to support the Western Zone COVID response, trained emergency department staff from Soldiers Memorial Hospital will be temporarily reassigned to Valley Regional Hospital emergency department. We recognize the concerns this change may cause, however, our priority must be to maintain our regional emergency department."

Endoscopy services at the two regional hospitals are also affected by the changes.

COVID rates remain high

Nova Scotia continues to see high rates of COVID-19 across the province.

The latest epidemiological information released on Thursday shows the province averaging almost two deaths a day and more than 1,000 positive PCR tests. The information from Public Health does not include data related to rapid antigen tests, which some experts believe could significantly increase the daily case count. The province's deputy chief medical officer of health said Thursday that numbers could be stabilizing.

A spokesperson for the health authority said in an email that surgical services across the province are being closely managed, with capacity expanded or reduced depending on demands and staff being redeployed to the areas with the greatest need.

"We recognize this is incredibly frustrating and challenging for our patients and for our staff and physicians in the surgical program who have seen their services affected repeatedly throughout the pandemic," wrote Brendan Elliott.

"However, surgical reductions are necessary to ensure sufficient inpatient bed capacity related to our COVID-19 response. Maintaining emergency services at our regional sites is a top priority and people requiring emergency care should not hesitate to visit, although waits may be long."

Earlier this week, officials with the health authority said acute care bed capacity was at 106 per cent. Elective and non-urgent surgeries in the Halifax area were mostly cancelled earlier this month, as hospitals there struggle with the effects of COVID-19.