That’s the number of patients that came through the door overnight Monday and into Tuesday at Western Hospital in Alberton.
This is significant because it is the first night for the Island’s highly touted Emergency Collaborative Centre. Western Hospital is home to P.E.I.’s first such centre. And as enraging to some as this statement may be, hopefully not P.E.I.’s last.
The CEC model sees registered nurses and advanced care paramedics working overnight in emergency rooms in smaller, rural hospitals. The creation of such centres is a move that has become necessary due to an acute lack of doctors to cover the shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In particular it is the overnight shifts that are most difficult to fill.
We are lucky to have nurses and paramedics who have the skills to act as primary caregivers during slower times (ie: overnight) and we should use the resources we have rather than lamenting the fact the world is not full of ER doctors tripping over themselves to heal us at 2 a.m.
Faced with this fact, the sitting provincial government decided to adopt the CEC model presently being used in Nova Scotia. In that province the CEC model seems to be working. It has been recognized by health officials and by many citizens there as not perfect, but still a much better solution than having local emergency rooms closed entirely.
No one is suggesting that nurses and paramedics are a 100 per cent skill or knowledge match to an emergency room doctor, but as has been the case in Nova Scotia, and likely soon here, having a CEC is better than the alternative – closed emergency rooms and frustrated doctors that become so unhappy with the situation that they leave the province for greener pastures.
Yes, it has only been one night, but if it turns out that four, or any number close to it, is the average seen at any CEC on P.E.I., the government has indeed made the best of a bad situation.
Not to be forgotten is that if someone is faced with a truly life-threatening injury or illness, regardless of the time of day or whether they are greeted by a doctor, nurse or paramedic, they are not going to be heading to rural hospitals for help. In that situation you can forget about hospitals in Alberton, O’Leary or Souris, they will be lucky to be treated on the Island. Every day Island ambulances are transporting patients to hospitals in Halifax, Moncton or Saint John, N.B.