Nova Scotia

Shelburne's Dr. Wouna Chaloner denied $15K bonus for ER work

The Municipality of the District of Shelburne has decided against providing one of the ER doctors in Shelburne with a $15,000 incentive to remain employed in the province.

Council votes against move to compensate doctor for cancelled ER shifts

Dr. Wouna Chaloner, seen here in 2001, is an emergency department physician at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne. (CBC)

The Municipality of the District of Shelburne has decided against providing one of the ER doctors in Shelburne with a $15,000 incentive to remain employed in the province. 

Coun. David Levy wanted to have Dr. Wouna Chaloner paid for cancelled shifts at the Roseway Hospital ER in Shelburne, N.S.. 

"I just don't understand why they [council] feel so unable to act. But personally, I feel very disappointed because I think our ER is now in total jeopardy."

Chaloner has been described as everything from a "blackmailing bitch" to "Shelburne's angel."

Chaloner is the doctor who usually staffs the overnight shift at the Roseway Hospital ER in Shelburne, a facility that serves thousands of people.

However, the ER is often closed because of a nursing shortage and when that happens, Chaloner is sent home without pay. Now she's left the province and is working in Manitoba for a few weeks as she considers whether to return to Shelburne.

Levy says Chaloner approached him a few weeks ago, upset she was losing $40,000 because of ER closures. He took her case to municipal council, which he says has $100,000 set aside to recruit doctors.

Kirk Cox, the municipality's chief administrative officer, disputes that and says the fund holds just $20,000.

Levy has twice asked council to use $15,000 of that money as a retention bonus for Chaloner, but the idea was rejected.

It was rejected for a third time Wednesday night.

"It was re-iterated that we don't really permit the re-examination of previously voted-on subjects; however, the CAO had been asked to get further information on the issue with Dr. Chaloner," said Levy said at the meeting. "And he gave a short report, a good report explaining basically that we are not meant to intervene in the systemic problems that exist with the health authority and ER doctors."

Levy says he's not surprised council decided against the $15,000 grant but he is disappointed. 

"The position of council is that we are not allowed to intervene in HR issues and that the health authority told us that we're not allowed to grant her a bonus to commit to stay here," he said. 

Health Authority response 

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says it will not comment on Chaloner's status as it is a personnel issue, according to authority spokeswoman Lesley Mulcahy. But she did confirm the pay structure Chaloner describes. 

"Physicians are paid for services provided; this means that physicians would not be paid when the emergency department closes," Mulcahy wrote in an email.

Chaloner has not responded to interview requests from CBC. In a posting on the Facebook page, she said some in the community have called her a "blackmailing bitch." Others on the site refer to her as "Shelburne's angel."

The emergency department at the Roseway was closed Wednesday night, reopening Thursday at 8 a.m.

Chaloner has lived and practiced medicine in Shelburne for at least 14 years and is loved by just about everyone, according to David Levy, a councillor with the surrounding Municipality of the District of Shelburne.

'People were crying'

Levy says he saw that appreciation first hand when the two were chatting recently and she was approached by passersby on the street.

"People were crying and thanking her for the incredible interventions that she had accomplished; the lives that she had saved," Levy says

In her Facebook post, Chaloner says the Nova Scotia Health Authority should take some lessons from the Department of Health in Manitoba, where she's working as an independent contractor.

She said she gets a set amount for office work and for covering the ER. If she sees a greater number of patients and bills more than the specified amount, she's paid the difference.

"I am paid to be on call," she wrote. "Even if there are no patients, just the fact that I am available, gives me a per diem per night."

Levy, along with many people in the Shelburne area, are worried about the future of the ER if Chaloner chooses to leave the small south shore community.

He says next month, 50 per cent of the shifts at the Roseway ER are not covered and he sees little real intention to fill them.

"There aren't ER doctors available," he says. "Somehow, our council feels some magic wand will fix the problem."

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