ALBERTON -- Alberton Town Council laid out its position on ER closures at Western Hospital during its February meeting Monday.
“Council understands the decision by some doctors to not do ER coverage for a variety of reasons,” Mayor Michael Murphy said in reading from a prepared statement. “However, Council feels it is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Wellness and Health PEI to put in place the mechanisms required to ensure the continuous delivery of health care services to which the government has committed.”
There were more than a dozen shifts in January and already some in February when the ER had to close temporarily because physician coverage was not available.
Prior to reading the statement, Mayor Murphy said it has been brought to the town’s attention that the town doesn’t seem to be actively pursuing the issue of 24/7 ER coverage. So he set out to set the record straight.
In doing so, he established a Council liaison between Health P.E.I. and Western Hospital. Councilor Krystyna Pottier will serve as the committee’s main spokesperson.
Councilor Natasha Dunn, who is heading up a West Prince committee seeking assurances of 24/7 Emergency Room coverage at Western, admitted later she was both surprised by and pleased with Council’s position. “I’m very happy they came out and made a stand, and the more people involved the merrier,” she said.
Council feels it is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Wellness and Health PEI to put in place the mechanisms required to ensure the continuous delivery of health care services to which the government has committed - Mayor Michael Murphy
Murphy said Council was encouraged by a recent meeting with Health Minister Doug Currie and his reassurance that neither Western Hospital nor its ER will be closed.
The mayor acknowledged Currie is willing to look at alternatives that will ensure continuous operation of the ER. He said alterative measures might include 12-hour shifts instead of the current 24-hour shits, hiring additional ER physicians and forming a pool of physicians to serve both Prince County and Western hospitals, adopting the Collaborative Emergency Care model, hiring more nurse practitioners to carry some of the load and increasing recruitment efforts, especially for physicians willing to work in rural ERs.
Murphy stressed the preferred option is an ER open 24/7 and staffed by physicians. If that cannot be maintained, then he said Council is prepared to look at the other options that would keep the ER open non-stop.
“The residents and communities of West Prince came together in the past to work to ensure health services in West Prince. Now is the time for us all to come together again and to work with the Department of Health and Wellness, Health PEI, physicians, nurses, and paramedics to ensure that in West Prince we receive the best health care possible,” Murphy said in issuing Council’s rallying call.