PEI

Residents concerned about extended shutdown of Western Hospital emergency centre

Health P.E.I. says it was a difficult decision to suspend service at the Collaborative Emergency Centre at Western Hospital in Alberton.

'It's an absolute necessity in town'

Health P.E.I. says resources must be shifted from the Collaborative Emergency Centre, which on average sees fewer than one patient a night. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

People in West Prince are used to hearing about Western Hospital's Collaborative Emergency Centre closing because of staffing issues. 

It has closed for a day or two, dozens of times since January. 

But the latest news — that it won't reopen until at least mid-September — has Alberton residents like Michael Scanlan especially concerned. 

"I get lots of old people in here and we discuss it," said Scanlan, owner of Great Finds antique shop.

"We still need to have that opened. It's an absolute necessity in town."

Michael Scanlan, owner of Great Finds antique shop, says the CEC is an 'absolute necessity' for Alberton. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The collaborative emergency centre is not a full-fledged ER, like the one in place at Western Hospital during the day. 

It operates only overnight, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., with a registered nurse and advanced care paramedic on site. A doctor is available to see patients virtually if need be. 

We have to really focus on, what are the areas that absolutely have to keep going?— Christina Phillips

Health P.E.I. said given the major staffing challenges in health care, running the overnight emergency centre isn't the best use of resources. On average, it said the centre sees fewer than one patient per night.

Overnight emergency staff, including nurses, will now be used during the day at Western Hospital, when demand is much higher, or at Prince County Hospital, which has faced its own staffing challenges. 

Christina Phillips, administrator for Community Hospitals West for Health P.E.I, said it was simply not possible to keep all services operational.

"It comes down to, what are our priorities, and there's difficult decisions that have to be made. Our nursing resources are tight. And we have to really focus on, what are the areas that absolutely have to keep going?"

The Western Hospital's CEC is not expected to re-open until at least Sept. 15. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Jason Woodbury, president of P.E.I.'s paramedics union, predicts the closure will lead to more calls to 911 from people who would have otherwise gone to the emergency centre. 

"I believe this is going to increase the call volume in the Alberton area, not having this collaborative emergency centre open, which is going to put more strain on the ambulance service we have now."

Health P.E.I. said there are no plans to close the overnight emergency centre permanently, but Hal Perry, the Liberal MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road, said he's worried it could lead to cutting other health-care services in the area. 

"It makes me uncomfortable, being a representative in West Prince, and also being a resident of West Prince and having family and loved ones here. I want to know that we have access to quality and timely health care. "

With files from Steve Bruce

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