Fewer recent emergency department closures at Digby and Shelburne hospitals

Published on January 30, 2017

Digby General Hospital.

© Tina Comeau

Southwestern, N.S. – With the exception of a closure in Shelburne last Friday evening, both Roseway Hospital and Digby General Hospital emergency departments have seen a break in closures over the past month.

This comes as a welcome reprieve after staffing shortages closed the emergency departments on a frequent basis.
Fraser Mooney, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said a team of people has been working hard to prevent closures and have taken steps to fill the staffing crunch.
 “We hope the measures that we have taken continue to pay off,” said Mooney.
Some of the steps to reduce staffing problems with nursing and physician shortages include increasing the rotation of locum doctors from other communities to fill emergency department shifts, training all nurses from Roseway Hospital in the emergency department, training and utilizing EHS staff for the emergency department and offering bursaries to nursing students who will work at Roseway Hospital.
As of Monday morning, Jan. 30, Digby had experienced almost a month since the last closure had occurred, they did see a three-fold increase in closure hours in 2016 compared to 2015 (421 from 143).
The Roseway Hospital emergency department saw its closure hours decrease from 1,153 in 2015 to 775 in 2016.
The first closure of 2017 happened on Friday, Jan. 27 when Roseway closed at 10 p.m. and reopened the next morning at 8 a.m. The reason? Nursing unavailability.

Roseway hospital.

The health authority says the Shelburne Clinic construction should help to alleviate pressure on the emergency department and the area hopes to attract and retain more physicians once the clinic is completed.

“So far so good,” said Mooney about the avoidance of frequent closures in recent months. “This past fall has seen a dramatic difference in the number of closures.  We have seen some success but it is still fragile…it is always a very thin line with scheduling.”

He said it would be an ongoing challenge.

“It is a system-wide issue,” he said.

The collaborative clinic in Shelburne is currently being prepared for the construction to go to tender. In March or April, Mooney said, they will meet with the contractors to go over the building plans.

“We are on schedule,” he said. 

He added that while there have been many setbacks to the project over the years, the community has been integral in making sure the project got off the ground.

“The community has been great at making sure the project was not overlooked,” he said.


• Digby closures

Last closed on Dec. 28, 2016

Total hour closures for 2015: 143

Total hour closures for 2016: 421

All closures due to physician unavailability


• Shelburne Closures

Last closed prior to Jan. 27 on Dec. 2, 2016

Total hour closures for 2015: 1,153

Total hour closures for 2016: 775

Closures are a result of either physician or nursing unavailability