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Letter: The elephant in the emergency room at Roseway Hospital


Recent events with respect to primary health care in Shelburne County require questioning.

How can it be, that the Department of Health, which fully consumes more than half of Nova Scotia's annual budget, is not able to keep a simple rural hospital emergency room open on a regular basis. Obviously it is not money since the budget for the Department is more than three billion dollars (an amount that exceeds the total budget for many small countries). So, if it is not money, then it has to be management and I suspect therein lays the major difficulty.

When we attempt to look at the situation in Shelburne we run into roadblocks. I have been told by Department of Health employees that it is "none of my business" and I should not be asking questions as that upsets a lot of people who are paid by the Nova Scotia health care system.

 There is that elephant again.

We have a so-called medical center on the grounds of the Roseway Hospital that is going to be upgraded and the budgeted cost is now starting to approach a million dollars. Inquires as to what is it for, when will it be ready and how much is it going to cost have not been answered or rebuffed. This too is perhaps indicative of the greater problem.

Doctors seem to appear and then disappear with little or no explanation. Given what it costs to get them to come here, and what they are paid, there is a lot of money changing hands and still many people still do not have a doctor.

I see in the most recent press release by the South West Nova District Health Authority that a lack of nurses is the reason the Roseway Hospital Emergency Room is closed - that is for the ninth time recently in one form or another.

Again from personal knowledge, several qualified registered nurses (RN's) have applied for jobs at Roseway and have been refused for one reason or another. They are all currently working elsewhere as RN's so obviously their credentials were in order. Also, as I understand it, there are "arrangements" where nurses working elsewhere in the system, can backfill jobs in order to keep the ER open. That is not happening either. So it would appear that staff management is also part of the issue.

There is that elephant again.

Elsewhere in Canada it seems that their governments and agencies have no trouble at all providing excellent 24/7 health care to their rural residents. Recent and past events illustrate all too clearly how critical it is to have a full time and functional ER facility here. The number of saved lives and limbs all too well attest to the wonderful level of health care that can be provided here - if the facility is open.

Health care is not my area of expertise, but emergency management certainly is. I have also served on both the Shelburne County Community Health Board (which has been emasculated to and is only a shadow of what it was) and the South West Nova District Health Authority Board (which is soon to disappear) where a non-disclosure agreement was required (hence I cannot write what I really want to). Very clearly a far more aggressive management model needs to be applied to provide the residents of this county with the level of health care that they are both paying for and deserve.

It is easy to be critical of the efforts of others - but that is not the intent of this letter. Let us combine our efforts and make far better use of the resources and the people we have. Right now there are Canadian, US and other retired medical experts living in this county that are available - all they have to be is asked. There are numerous models elsewhere in this country where our kind of problems have been overcome and they are providing a thriving level of health care far beyond the status quo for which we are currently struggling just to barely maintain.

There is yet another aspect of the ER closures that must also be examined. When the ER is closed there are people who have lost their income until it reopens again. If the ER is closed frequently enough a point could be reached where it is no longer viable for some to remain in this area.

Clearly the time has come to get this elephant out of our ER and put it back on the savannah where it belongs. Once that is done we can start work on getting the rest of the herd moved to the savannah as well.


Don Bower

Lower Ohio


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