Nova Scotia

Shelburne residents worried about Roseway Hospital's future

Some Shelburne residents are growing increasingly concerned about the future of their hospital.

Emergency room closed last week, and will close again next week

Roseway Hospital's emergency room frequently closes. (CBC)

Some residents of Shelburne, N.S., are growing increasingly concerned about the future of their hospital.

The Roseway Hospital serves all of Shelburne County. It was built back in 1980. At the time, it housed 52 beds and provided everything from major surgery to delivering babies.

Today, it's been reduced to just 19 inpatient beds with blood and X-ray services.

It does have an emergency room, but to some residents it seems the ER is closed more often than it's open.

The latest closure came Friday, when the South West Health Authority closed the ER from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also close the ER on March 10 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m

People are becoming very stressed, very frustrated.- Mayor Karen Mattatal

MLA Sterling Belliveau noted in January that ER closure hours were up nearly 1,000 per cent in six months.

Between Sept. 1, 2014 and Jan. 14, 2015, he said there have been approximately 261 hours of ER closures at Roseway Hospital. During the same time frame the previous year, the ER was closed for 24 hours.

Belliveau said that increase is unacceptable.

"Our communities have a good number of seniors and these services are crucial. This is crucial piece of infrastructure in our community and the minister has had ample opportunity to deal with this." 

During closures, people who need emergency care must drive an hour to the Yarmouth hospital or to the Liverpool hospital. "It's just sad to see that people are going a great distance to obtain these services that most people take for granted," Belliveau said. 

Services 'erode and erode and erode'

That's a big worry for Wouna Chaloner, a doctor who often works in ER. "The time it takes us to get to another hospital — would [it] have made a difference in the outcome?"

Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatal says the closures are taking a toll.

"People are becoming very stressed, very frustrated. They're really beginning to worry about what it means down the road in terms of services at our hospital. If we can't protect a certain level of service, you can't protect the services underneath, and we've seen the services erode and erode and erode at Roseway Hospital."

Fraser Mooney, spokesman for SouthWest Heath Authority, blames the closures on a nursing shortage. If a nurse on a hospital ward is sick, they may have to take the ER nurse to tend to patients in the hospital. 

"This is a significant concern to us because it is our goal to make sure that the emergency department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but we know we've been unable to do that because of nursing shortages and that is causing great concern in the community," he said. 

Recruiting more nurses

The health authority is working with the Department of Health and the community to recruit more nurses. "It's becoming more and more difficult to recruit them to rural areas because they do prefer the full-time work that they find in a larger centre like Halifax or other places in Canada," Mooney said. 

The Department of Health said it helps district health authorities to recruit and retain nurses. 

"We appreciate that the unexpected closures of the Roseway Hospital emergency department are frustrating  and we share these concerns. We’re working to improve the way we deliver health care so that we ease the burden," said spokeswoman Lindsay Lewis. 

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