Nova Scotia

Mobile emergency team proposed for New Waterford

Officials with the Cape Breton District Health Authority are proposing a collaborative emergency centre on wheels as an alternative to emergency-room visits.

Sick people in New Waterford may see a modern twist on the old-fashioned house call.

Officials with the Cape Breton District Health Authority are proposing a collaborative emergency centre on wheels as an alternative to emergency-room visits.

People would call a number instead of heading to the emergency room at night. Someone would assess the problem and send a nurse and paramedic if necessary.

The team would treat the callers at home, send them to hospital or tell them to visit a doctor the next day.

Health district officials say it's a good way to provide after-hours care to people in New Waterford, where the emergency department is often closed.

"Right now they don't have access to 24/7 service and we saw this as an opportunity to provide access to urgent services after hours when the emergency department is closed," said Dianne Calvert Simms, the district's new CEO.

But not everyone is convinced it's a good idea.

Many people who attended a public meeting in New Waterford Wednesday night said the plan is an erosion of services, rather than an addition.

Some people said the health authority should be working to keep the local emergency department open at night.

"This community is full of seniors and poor people. Those two groups of people can't even use the phone," said Mary MacMillan. "Why don't they try it in Sydney?"

Health officials say the emergency department in New Waterford cannot survive as is.

They vow to work with the community over the coming months to design an emergency centre on wheels that people will accept.

They say a similar system works well in England.

With files from the CBC's Wendy Martin

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