SHELBURNE – Members of Shelburne municipal council say they were “pleased” they had “the opportunity for an open and frank discussion” with Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) president and CEO Janet Knox on March 11 during their committee of the whole meeting.
Knox, along with Jodi Ybarra, site manager for Roseway Hospital, Krista Grant, chief of public engagement and communications for the NSHA, and Fraser Mooney, the health authority’s public engagement and communications officer for the tri-counties, met with councillors for well over an hour, fielding numerous questions about the delivery of health-care services in the province and the future of Roseway Hospital.
Knox was asked point blank if there were any plans to close Roseway Hospital and told the councillors “no,” agreeing with council that the Sandy Point hospital “is a very pivotal resource that’s here” and a “key” location geographically for ER services in the province.
“There have been rumours circulating about the future of Roseway Hospital for some time and with this confirmation from Ms. Knox, we can continue to focus on finding real, local solutions to the health-care needs of our residents,” said Warden Penny Smith after the meeting.
Knox said the NSHA is trying to staff 34 ER rooms across the province and “that’s what the challenge is… We have to change the whole service delivery, I truly believe, and then use the resources that we have to support where they need to be.”
It used to be that family physicians would keep the local ER open but over the last few decades that has changed, said Knox. “I think the answer is we identify key ER places in the province – this is one of them, given the geography – and we develop a team” that would be able to go around and staff ERs where needed. “We aren’t there yet,” said Knox.
Knox said there are things that the NSHA has no control over, including doctors. “We don’t pay doctors. We can’t tell doctors they have to work in the ER. We can’t tell them where to go. They go where they want… that’s between Doctors Nova Scotia and government and is a huge issue for us.”
Grant said physician recruitment is a “top priority” for the NSHA, and the recruitment team “has a very good solid strategy in place” but it “takes time.”
Ybarra said it’s basically a “full-time job” finding physician coverage for the ER at Roseway. “This month is going to be bad,” she said. “The gaps are as bad as I’ve seen in a very long time,” she said, noting there is a husband-and-wife locum team that covers shifts at Roseway who will be taking a vacation so “we’re losing them this month… If they can’t work, they can’t work. They have real lives too.”
Ybarra said negative press and social media comments aren’t helping the situation. “I can tell you for a fact one of the last practitioners that came here was on a day we were on the news. They were in my office and they hear someone from the community talking bad about health care and how bad it was. At that moment we lost that doctor. We were not even in the running after that because they do not want to come to an area where they hear those things. Hearing all those negative things who would want to come here? I wouldn’t.”
Ybarra said the community is just “shooting ourselves in the foot” by continuing to bash the Roseway Hospital on social media, noting staff take the comments “very personally. It’s hard not to. It doesn’t do much for staff morale… It starts with each and every one of us to remember the good things, to be thankful for what we have, locums travelling two to three hours to help us out. That’s huge. Yes, they get paid to do it, but it doesn’t have to be here.”
The delivery of services at Roseway Hospital and staffing were also part of the discussion. Blood collection services are moving to a point of care system, which means no loss in terms of service, said Knox. “The public should not experience any change because we change how we do the test,” she said.
As for X-ray services, while the machine is old, there have been no issues with it since it was down a day last November, said Ybarra, and then the hospital has the new portable X-ray machine purchased by the Roseway Hospital Auxiliary to fall back on. The machine in the X-ray department is due to be replaced and is on the capital equipment list, she said.
Staffing at Roseway in the last seven years has actually increased from 141 employees in 2012 to 174 in 2019, said Ybarra, with two RNs and an LPN stationed in the ER 24/7, an extra full-time CCA up on the floor, and additional ward clerks.
It takes 5.2 people to fill one nursing position, Knox said.
Removal of the $4 parking levy at the hospital and whether or not there has been any discussions about the possibility for a partial walk-in or after-hours clinic at the new health centre adjacent to Roseway Hospital were other issues brought up by councillors.
Parking levies, which generate $10 million a year in revenue across the province for the NSHA, is a $10-million issue, said Knox, and is something they are working with government on.
As for a partial walk-in or after-hours clinic at the new family collaborative health-care centre, it is a question that has been asked, said Ybarra, who wasn’t in a position to provide an answer.
“It takes time to work with a team to do that,” said Knox. “Phased development is the goal for here and that takes time.”
Knox said the amalgamation of nine district health authorities “is not a simple task… It takes a lot of time. The business side of health care is done. Now there are key areas where we can start to show some change. We’re expecting to have a lot of outcomes very shortly.”