Nova Scotia

Health authority working around flooded roads to keep Neils Harbour hospital running

Nova Scotia's health authority is finding ways to deliver care and service to those in northern Cape Breton affected by the heavy rainstorm earlier this week.

Officials consider taking co-op's offer to boat people, supplies if needed

Storm damage cuts off communities in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland

9 months ago
Duration 2:07
People in parts of Cape Breton, N.S., and Newfoundland and Labrador are grappling with widespread destruction after days of record-setting rain washed out roads and cut off communities from supplies and medical care.

Nova Scotia's health authority says it is finding workarounds to deliver care and service to staff and patients in northern Cape Breton affected by the heavy rainstorm earlier this week.

Impassable roads in the Ingonish area have cut off the quickest access to Buchanan Memorial Hospital in Neils Harbour and the alternative route is a three-hour drive. The health authority said it is working with Emergency Health Services and the Emergency Management Office to do wellness checks for patients.

"If there's anyone in the community that feels like they need to have someone checked on — a neighbour or loved one — they're working to help facilitate that," said Brett MacDougall, executive director of operations in the eastern zone for Nova Scotia Health.

MacDougall said there is currently enough staff at the hospital. He said there are daily meetings to co-ordinate coverage for shifts. Staff normally work 12-hour shifts, but MacDougall said some have had to stay 24 hours or longer. He said the health authority is working to make sure those people are getting enough rest time.

"It's certainly not easy. It's complex. And then you add in the fact that transport, transport time for some of our staff is extended as well," MacDougall said.

Buchanan Memorial Hospital, shown here in 2020, is in Neils Harbour, N.S. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The hospital is also looking at options to deliver medical supplies. MacDougall said he knew of at least one fisherman with the Victoria Co-operative Fisheries who offered to do transport runs for medications by boat. He said bringing staff and patients to hospital by boat is also being considered.

"We're entertaining any ideas, but right now we're focusing on trying to maintain safety for staff and patients and using the ground transport routes that we know are clear," he said.

Osborne Burke, general manager of the Victoria Co-operative Fisheries, said his team is ready to help in any way they can, weather permitting.

"In a situation like we have now, everybody is willing to step in and help in any way they can, including us," Burke said.

Drone footage of Cabot Trail shows extent of storm damage

9 months ago
Duration 0:48
A tour of Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail, north of Ingonish, shows the scale of damage from a punishing rainstorm. (Steve Lawrence /CBC)

'We're ready to go'

Burke said the co-op is also able to offer accommodations that would usually be used by seasonal workers, so hospital workers could stay in Neils Harbour if needed.

There used to be a ferry in the area called the Aspy and Burke said it would make runs through coastal communities. He said making deliveries by boat in the area used to be common.

"That's how they got their supplies and many of the seniors would be well aware of that over the years," he said. "We have the people, we have the equipment, we have the vessel, we have fishermen that are able to assist, more than one vessel if need be, so we're ready to go if the situation arises that we have to."

MacDougall said he's been told normal routes could resume in a week, but that it was only a rough timeline.


With files from Tom Murphy and Tom Ayers