© Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Western Hospital in Alberton.
ALBERTON -- The mayor of Springhill Nova Scotia predicts West Prince residents will find satisfaction with the Collaborative Emergency Centre model when it is rolled out at Western Hospital this fall.
“I believe it can work for you guys. I don’t have any doubts about that, I would probably be a little disappointed if it didn’t work,” Mayor Max Snow said in a telephone interview from Springhill.
The emergency department at Springhill shifted to the CEC model a year ago.
Snow said the key to acceptance in Alberton could be how well the community is educated on the process. Although he believes the Cumberland Health Authority and the Nova Scotia government could have done a better job of educating the Springhill and area population on the change, Snow accepts that the change has been good. “For me, and my family, I’ve got to say that it works well; there don’t seem to be a long time before you can get in.”
Snow reasons that physicians have more time to commit to their clinics because they no longer have to take turns working nights in an emergency department, and he thinks the change in service delivery has helped attract new doctors.
Three of the six CECs currently operating in Nova Scotia are in Cumberland County. They are the South Cumberland Community Care Centre in Parrsboro, which became the province’s very first CEC nearly two years ago; All Saints Springhill Hospital which shifted over a year ago and the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash which adopted the CEC model last June.
“You wonder, ‘Gosh, are we going to be able to see a doctor? – all the usual questions one would have,” Parrsboro mayor Lois Smith reflected.
“Sometimes you think change is not necessarily better, but, having said all of that, I’ve talked to people who are not happy, but I have talked to more people who say, ‘it’s great; it’s working well,’ because, within 24 hours, unless it is some rare exception, you can see a doctor.”
Cumberland Health Authority CEO Bruce Quigley said persistent ER closures helped drive the change. In the year before CECs were introduced, there were 180 ER closures – 2,800 hours - at the three hospitals combined, Quigley said. There were only four closures in the past year.
The communities were saying, ‘This is not acceptable.’ So, as a health authority, we had to provide a better system Bruce Quigley, Cumberland Health Authority CEO
“The communities were saying, ‘This is not acceptable.’ So, as a health authority, we had to provide a better system,” Quigley related.
Quigley said there was a mix of apprehension and acceptance when the changes were announced, but the level of satisfaction since the changes has been extremely high.
Doctors take turns in the emergency department during the day, but, at nighttime the department is staffed by some combination of RNs, nurse practitioners and/or paramedics. A medical oversight physician is available by phone. As a team, the medical providers will treat and discharge the patient home, treat the patient with instructions and an appointment with a primary care provider for the next day or arrange for the patient to be transferred to a regional hospital.
Statistics were showing that the vast majority of presentations in emergency rooms at night were not emergencies, but patients seeking primary care.
“So, what was happening was you would have a physician who would be on call in the emergency room at night and he or she might see two or three patients in the middle of the night and then not be able to work in their office the next day,” Quigley explained.
Patients who might have been waiting four or even five weeks for a doctor’s appointment are now, quite often, being seen the same day of, or the day after, they call for an appointment
Quigley said five new doctors have joined the staffs of the three hospitals since the changes were announced, and only one left the region. He added that the one who departed the region was complimentary of the changes.
“What the physicians are telling us is that it creates for them – and this is a real draw – a much better balance between their professional and their personal life,” Quigley reported.