Nova Scotia

New Glasgow hospital reopens after bomb threat

People in a small Nova Scotia community were reacting with anger and confusion over a phoney bomb threat called into the local hospital that forced the evacuation of 93 patients and diverted several health care resources.

Police try to identify mystery caller

People in a small Nova Scotia community were reacting with anger and confusion over a phoney bomb threat called into the local hospital that forced the evacuation of 93 patients and diverted several health care resources.

Pat Lee, CEO of the Pictou County Health Authority, said Tuesday that staff at the Aberdeen Hospital and residents of New Glasgow were upset that someone would pull a prank that endangered ailing patients.

"There's outrage in terms of the indecency and the criminal nature of the act," he said.

"[There's] outrage, disappointment and disgust that someone would stoop to such a dastardly act."

Const. Ken MacDonald of the New Glasgow police department said they are in the early stages of their investigation and so far have no leads.

"This is a very, very serious incident," he said. "It was very life-threatening in the case where resources from the hospital had to be moved."

Officers with New Glasgow's major crime unit are interviewing hospital staff, the switchboard operator who took the call and anyone who may have information on the case.

A spokeswoman in the mayor's office also said there is a sense of disbelief and anger over the incident, which circulated quickly in the community of about 9,500 people on the province's northern shore.

Kim Dickson said news of the threat and evacuation was making the rounds in the town hall, on the street and on a municipal Facebook site.

"It just went through the community in an instant," she said, adding that people found it "unsettling, confusing and not really understanding why someone would do such a thing."

The hospital was back to normal operations in the emergency and in-patient departments early Tuesday.

Call came in at 7:15 p.m.

Lee said the hospital's emergency plan kicked into gear when the call came in at about 7:15 p.m. on Monday from someone who claimed to have planted several bombs inside the building.

He decided to remove all patients and staff from the five-storey building after consulting with police.

Most had to be taken out on stretchers and hospital beds and relocated to a nearby drugstore before being taken to a vacant building the hospital uses as a primary evacuation site.

Many were on ventilators and required medications that officials had to get from the drugstore since the hospital was closed while police sniffer dogs searched for explosives.

Lee said the evacuation went well and that the health of patients didn't appear to suffer. He planned to meet with staff to evaluate the hospital's response.

Several Emergency Health Services trailers with medical supplies and stretchers also provided material during the evacuation, which took about 25 minutes.

Patients sent to other hospitals

Four patients in the intensive care unit, including a child, had to be either flown out or driven by ambulance to other hospitals throughout the province, including Antigonish and the Halifax area. Two others were taken to a nursing home.

Mayor Barrie MacMillan, who witnessed the evacuation, said the incident was "very upsetting and very disturbing," but that it appeared the hospital handled it well.

Police found no sign of a bomb and gave the all clear about three hours after the threat came in. The Pictou County Health Authority said police allowed people back in the building at about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The emergency department was reopened at 4:45 a.m.

The closure of the hospital for several hours forced four ambulances to divert to emergency rooms in the nearby Nova Scotia communities of Truro and Antigonish.

A similar threat in 2002 led to an evacuation, but no bombs were found in that incident either. Someone was charged and convicted in that case, Dickson said.

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