Nova Scotia

Shelburne ER closes for several days, despite promises of more staff

The emergency room at Shelburne's Roseway Hospital will be closed for several days over the Christmas period because of a doctor shortage.

ER closure at Roseway Hospital means residents must travel an hour for emergency care

Shelburne's Roseway Hospital emergency room will be closed Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. until Saturday, Dec. 26, at 8 a.m. It will close again Monday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. until Dec. 29 at 8 a.m. (CBC)

Despite promises that staffing would improve, residents of Shelburne County will have to travel almost an hour to get emergency care over parts of the holidays.

That's because the county's only emergency room, at Shelburne's Roseway Hospital, will be closed Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. until Saturday, Dec. 26, at 8 a.m. It will close again Monday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m.until Dec. 29 at 8 a.m.

In October, Health Minister Leo Glavine and Health Authority CEO Janet Knox travelled to Shelburne to announce additional staff would be hired for the ER, which has been closed for more than 500 hours this past year.

They were met by over 100 people who were upset about the closures and the impact on residents who need emergency care.

Health Authority spokesman Fraser Mooney told CBC News he understands the community's frustration with the closures but assures people they are working to reduce them.

"We have increased the number of locum or temporary physicians who have expressed an interest in being available to cover emergency department shifts at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, and they have been scheduled a number of times over the past month," he said.

Same situation last year

Mooney said they had a similar situation last year. "I think it's a combination of factors, but with the Christmas holiday in there it is difficult to find someone who is willing to come in and do a temporary shift in the emergency department," Mooney said.

Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall calls the situation frustrating, disappointing and worrisome.

"It was our understanding that the province had put in place a team of people including advanced-care paramedics and had hired new nursing staff that should reduce or prevent the closures at Roseway Hospital. However, it doesn't seem to be happening yet," she said.

Mooney said reducing closures continues to be a priority.

He said they've had some success "but we're still going to have challenges with some deficits as a result of physician coverage."

Shelburne lost its dedicated ER doctor, Wouna Chaloner, because the health authority refused to compensate her when her scheduled shifts were cancelled because of nursing shortages.

During his October announcement, Glavine said six new doctors have been identified to fill in for doctors who were away. He also said two new family physicians will start in 2016. Mooney says that will be later in the new year.

"We don't have a firm start for both of them but they have been identified. They are still planning to come and we're really looking forward to having them provide services to the people of Shelburne County," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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