Nova Scotia

Guysborough Memorial Hospital temporarily reducing emergency department service

Beginning Thursday, the emergency department at Guysborough Memorial Hospital will no longer be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. AT due to a shortage of doctors.

2 doctors 'going day and night and the writing has been on the wall,' says Warden Vernon Pitts

Beginning Thursday, the emergency department at Guysborough Memorial Hospital will no longer be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. AT due to a shortage of doctors. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

Overnight emergency department services at Guysborough Memorial Hospital will temporarily cease as of Thursday.

Vernon Pitts, the warden for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, said the decision comes down to staffing. There are just two doctors in the community and they're "maxed right out."

"They've been going day and night and the writing has been on the wall," he said in a phone interview.

Emergency services at the hospital will no longer be available from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. AT. The two doctors will continue to provide 24-hour coverage for the inpatient medical unit, long-term care facility and manage their family practices, according to a news release from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Madonna MacDonald, vice-president of operations for the health authority's eastern zone, said they were advised on Friday the doctors decided they could no longer continue providing 24-hour emergency coverage.

"We understand their decision and appreciate the commitment they had made to keep the ED operating 24 hours daily while physician recruitment efforts were ongoing," she said in the release.

Pitts said the municipality has worked hard on recruitment efforts to try to get the doctors some help, but so far they've been unsuccessful. This reduction in service, which follows a similar indefinite change at the hospital in Canso due to nursing shortages, is a blow to the community, he said.

"This is a terrible set of circumstances when people can't get medical attention in their own community," he said.

911 will respond to emergencies during evenings

With no overnight emergency coverage in the municipality, Pitts said the closest option would be St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish.

People experiencing an emergency after hours or on weekends are being told to call 911. While the warden had high praise for the province's ambulance service and paramedics, Pitts said the local hospital should be used to its full potential.

The municipality has put more than $1 million into Guysborough Memorial, along with even more than that from the province, in the last five years, said the warden. When the change was made in Canso, health authority officials noted that 90 per cent of the use happened during daytime hours. Most severe emergencies bypass community hospitals in favour of regional sites, even when the community sites are open.

The doctors in Guysborough "are only human and they can only do so much," and so now is the time to do something, said Pitts.

Meeting scheduled

Officials from the Nova Scotia Health Authority are scheduled to meet with the municipal council Wednesday and Pitts said he's also talked with Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines, the MLA for the area.

"My first call was to Minister Hines and he assured me that he's on it," Pitts said.

MacDonald said recruitment efforts for both permanent and locum physicians for the Guysborough area continue.

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