Nova Scotia

New Waterford ER plan under fire

Doctors in New Waterford are critical of a plan to keep the emergency room open seven days a week.

Doctors in New Waterford are critical of a plan to keep the emergency room open seven days a week.

The Cape Breton District Health Authority wants to close the ER at night and open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. — as a report on rural emergency care in Nova Scotia suggests. 

This way, the emergency room would serve more as a clinic. Doctors would be asked to move their practices into the hospital.

But Dr. Raed Azer, a family physician, said a seven-day work week is a recipe for burnout.

"We have families, children, spouses," he said Wednesday at a community meeting.

"You really don't want to see me in the emergency room when I'm tired after 48 hours without sleeping. And I'm not that young. And then I will care for you or one of your beloved, you don't want to see my judgment being really affected by that."

Doctors are proposing 24-hour coverage but only from Monday to Friday. A nurse practitioner would work on weekends.

3 patients a night

John Malcom, health authority CEO, said no matter what happens, the current system isn't acceptable.

"We've tried now for four or five years to keep 24/7 emergency room open in New Waterford without success," he said. "There will be change."

The emergency room at New Waterford Consolidated Hospital was closed nearly one-quarter of the time last year because there wasn't enough people to staff it. It was closed again Wednesday night.

Malcom said on average, there are three patients a night, though only one true emergency every 10 days.

Confusing message

The discussion Wednesday night left many people in the crowd of 50 bewildered.

"It's a little confusing," said one man. "If you have doctors standing up and saying they will not carry seven days a week, then there's option No. 1 finished."

Malcom said people just want some certainty about emergency room hours. He said officials would try to find a solution that pleases both patients and doctors in time for the fall.

"Under any of these models, we believe we can do better. It would be a lie to tell people we're never, ever going to have a closure for whatever reason. That's just not honest," Malcom said.

He said the hospital already has a plan in place for summer ER closures.