Nova Scotia

Shelburne paramedics working in Roseway Hospital's emergency room

Several paramedics will be working in the Roseway hospital's emergency room helping interview, assess and prioritize patients in an effort to ensure the ER stays open.

Dr. John Keeler says the paramedics help triage patients upon their arrivals just like nurses do

In October more than 100 people gathered in front of Shelburne's Town Hall on Monday to voice their concern over ER closures during a visitor from the province's health minister. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

Paramedics are now helping triage patients at the Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, N.S. as part of changes made to keep the hospital's emergency room open.

Dr. John Keeler, a physician who practices in the community and works in the emergency room, says the paramedics' role is to assist in the same way a nurse does — interviewing, assessing and prioritizing patients upon their arrival. 

"Every step we can put in place to prevent closures is a positive one. This is certainly a big help," Keeler said.

"It won't address the physician shortages unfortunately but it certainly goes a long way in terms of closing gaps with respect to nursing shortages."

In October, Health Minister Leo Glavine and and Nova Scotia Health Authority CEO Janet Knox announced changes coming to the hospital, which included training four Emergency Health Services paramedics to work in the ER. 

Paramedics have worked in that role in other hospitals but it's a first for Shelburne, Keeler says.

Triaging requires some additional training for paramedics, but he says it overlaps a great deal with work they already do in ambulances.

He doesn't expect the public to notice any change in care — but Keeler says it creates more flexibility for scheduling. However, he says it doesn't alleviate the pressure on the hospital, which serves 15,000 people in Shelburne County. 

"It's not an easy fix at times. Finding physicians willing and trained to do ER shifts in rural areas is a challenge right now," Keeler said. 

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