Nova Scotia

Detox waitlists grow with province's intervention

Long waitlists have developed at many provincial detox facilities over the past few months after an intervention by the Department of Health and Wellness to limit the number of nurses prescribing medication and admitting patients to detox.

Department of Health wants to ensure only doctors prescribe medication, admit patients

Long waitlists have developed at many provincial detox facilities over the past few months after an intervention by the Department of Health and Wellness to limit the number of nurses prescribing medication and admitting patients to detox.

Although the provincial Hospitals Act states prescribing medications and admitting patients to detox needs to be done by doctors, the work is often delegated to nurses.

Carolyn Davison, the director of addiction services for the Department of Health and Wellness, said the province intervened earlier this year when it learned that practice was still in place.

Some Nova Scotia health authorities say they're struggling to find enough doctors qualified and willing to work in withdrawal management. (iStock)

"Our patients are a little bit more complex now and need a little bit more medical involvement and oversight," she said.

"What changed was the amount of time and level of involvement of physicians."

Dr. Linda Courey, the director of mental health and addiction services for the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said officials are struggling to find enough doctors qualified and willing to work in withdrawal management.

In Cape Breton, the only doctor available had to leave for three weeks and more than 30 people ended up on a waiting list, she said.

"We're not too bad at the moment with a wait list of 21 people. It certainly has been a disruption," said Courey.

"In the longer term it probably is a good thing because it's helping us review everything that we're doing."

Rachel Boehm, an addictions program leader with the Capital District Health Authority, said their service has also been affected.

"We were admitting only Tuesdays and Thursdays for a period of about a month and a half," she said.

"It doubled the size of what would normally be our waitlist. Our waitlist went as high as 200."

The Department of Health and Wellness said it has provided additional short-term funding to hire doctors and said it's working with the health authorities to review the entire withdrawal management system.

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