SHELBURNE, N.S. – The latest round of ER closures at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne that had the emergency room closed a total of 104 hours between Aug 1 and 7 is “going well beyond anything that’s acceptable,” said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall.
“Over . . . seven days our ER will be closed 104 hours. Two of those closures will be 38 hours each. I don’t hardly even know what you can say about something like that,” said Mattatall in an interview. “It makes me say what are decision-makers thinking? We’re talking about people’s lives here. We’re not talking about a closed store. It’s over 100 km to access the nearest hospital.”
Mattatall noted although the town does have “wonderful paramedics” and a helipad, this “shouldn’t be your first recourse,” she said.
“We should have access right here locally, 24/7. I look at this NSHA (Nova Scotia Health Authority) and its a massive bloated administrative body and the province of Nova Scotia is continuing to support them, and they are not doing their job in my opinion,” she added. “People have the right to access health-care services locally and they are not making that happen.”
Citing the increasing costs for health care that Canadians pay for through taxes, she said, “that’s fine if you have access to the services. The residents of this county are paying taxes but have no access to services. Are we subsidizing others? I don’t know but it’s unacceptable we’re paying for a service that we don’t have.”
The reason cited for the emergency department closures – as is usually the case – is lack of physician availability. There were also emergency department closures in Digby announced for Aug. 2 and Aug. 7. Those added up to 28 hours and the reason cited was lack of physician availability.
Mattatall, along with a host of other municipal units in the region, as well as the Nova Scotia Health Coalition, have been working together since February as the Rural Nova Scotia Health Crisis Working Group to bring attention to the crisis in the health-care system and advocate for change.
“We talk about it in our working group like a disease. No family doctor, no ER coverage, no local access to services and no local decision making. All of these things are symptoms of the disease. We have to fix all of the problems,” she said.
The working group has just recently launched a Facebook page, Save Our Rural Healthcare (https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurRuralHealthcare) to share updates on the ongoing health crisis, explore community-based solutions, and to advocate for changes that will resolve the health- care crisis in rural communities.
The page includes videos from citizens who describe how emergency department closures have impacted them.
Mattatall said the page is getting a good following, with interest from other areas of the province, including interest and support from Cape Breton.
“We’ve been contacted by a couple of other areas in Nova Scotia that want to become involved with the effort and we really encourage people to look at the page, to share it and if you have a story, tell your story,” she said.
The Rural Nova Scotia Health Crisis Working Group has some other initiatives in the works for this fall including a provincial day of action, opposition days in the House of Assembly and an outreach event for metro Halifax so people in the city know this is “not us against them,” said Mattatall. “This crisis effects everybody.”
The Rural Nova Scotia Health Crisis Working Group meets again on Aug. 14 in Shelburne.
EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT CLOSURES
The following dates and times were announced over the Aug. 1-7 time frame for emergency department closures in Shelburne and Digby.
Roseway Shelburne Hospital closures:
• Wednesday, Aug. 1, closed at 6 p.m., and reopening Thursday, Aug. 2, at 8 a.m.
• Thursday, Aug. 2, closed at 6 p.m., and reopening Saturday, Aug. 4, at 8 a.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 4, closed at 6 p.m., and reopening Monday, Aug. 6, at 8 a.m.
• Monday, Aug. 6, closed at 6 p.m., and reopening Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 7 a.m.
Digby General Hospital closures:
• Closed Thursday, Aug. 2, at 6 p.m. and reopened Friday, Aug. 3, at 8 a.m.
• Closed Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. and reopened Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 8 a.m.