Nova Scotia

Dartmouth General Hospital also facing overcrowding issues

The chief of emergency medicine at Dartmouth General Hospital says he's been forced to put patients in non emergency room rooms and cancel non-essential surgeries to free up resources.

'Capacity has not kept up with demand. We don't have enough acute care hospital beds right now'

A second prominent doctor within the Capital District Health Authority has raised the alarm about a spike in wait times in Emergency Rooms. (CBC)

The chief of emergency medicine at Dartmouth General Hospital says he's been forced to put patients in non emergency room rooms and cancel non-essential surgeries to free up resources.

Dr. Ravi Parkash is the second prominent doctor within the Capital District Health Authority to raise the alarm about a spike in wait times in ERs.

"Capacity has not kept up with demand. We don't have enough acute care hospital beds right now. Even if we tweak out all of the efficiencies right now, the way the numbers work out, people ending up staying in the emergency room for a large portion of their care and it's a high percentage of those patients," he said.

"Right now, we need more capacity and when I talk about capacity we need more beds." 

Earlier this week Dr. Samuel Campbell, the chief of the emergency department at the Halifax Infirmary, said the situation at his ER is dire and "demoralizing."

Thursday morning, the province's deputy health minister Peter Vaughn told CBC News that ER wait times are a symptom of a more complex problem that requires a multi-pronged approach.

"Part of the solution is primary care, better access to primary care. Part of the solution is within the emergency department structure. But part of the solution is also in the hospital, working with specialist colleagues, matching staff coverage with patient demand," he said.

"There's a whole host of activities that are taking place, that need to be taking place."

Parkash said it's been a rough year at Dartmouth General's ER. 

"This year has been one of the worst years in the last few years that I can recall," he says.

"Last week was a particularly rough week. We've had about 15 admissions in the emergency department, most days numerous surgeries cancelled. Last week, most of those surgeries being major surgeries that require admission, for example hip and knee replacements.

"Right now we are using our day surgery unit as another ward housing inpatient admissions. ... The situation across the district is basically every nook and cranny that we're using trying to cope with new patients."

Parkash says wait times are delaying emergency services across the board. He says it's not unusual to have ambulance offload times at Dartmouth general that are three or four hours. 

"When we have too many patients in the emergency room that are waiting on hospital beds and then there is no place to move those patients, that's really what creates the backlog for ambulances to offload their patients," he said.

"We're seeing those ambulance off load times just go sky high."

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