Baddeck hospital ER being replaced with urgent treatment centre

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The emergency department at the hospital in Baddeck, N.S., has been closed frequently and is being replaced with an urgent treatment centre, which Nova Scotia Health says is only temporary. (Submitted by Nova Scotia Health - image credit)
The emergency department at the hospital in Baddeck, N.S., has been closed frequently and is being replaced with an urgent treatment centre, which Nova Scotia Health says is only temporary. (Submitted by Nova Scotia Health - image credit)

The emergency department at the Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck, N.S., is being replaced with an urgent treatment centre.

That's an appointment-only clinic for non-life-threatening health issues such as simple fractures, sprains, earaches, minor cuts and mild abdominal pain.

Nova Scotia Health says the move is temporary as it struggles to find doctors and nurses to staff the emergency department.

The Baddeck emergency department has been closed for much of the summer and nearly all of the last month.

County Warden Bruce Morrison said hospital staff have been swamped with patients coming from other parts of Cape Breton, especially since the North Sydney hospital ER was replaced with an urgent treatment centre last year.

"Our preference would be to have a fully functioning emergency department, however, the demand on that department over really the last two to three years has created conditions for trying to operate that facility that our nurses and doctors and support staff have been overwhelmed," he said.

CBC
CBC

When the Baddeck centre opens on Oct. 3, anyone needing emergency care will have to go to the regional hospital in Sydney, about a 45-minute drive away.

Morrison said the status quo was not working. He said time will tell if the new model is any better.

"Although it may not be ideal, I think we have to have a look at it and see how effective it is and see if it fits our needs," he said.

Andrew Heighton, director of integrated rural health with Nova Scotia Health, said Baddeck's emergency department has been closed frequently because of a shortage of doctors and nurses, and because some doctors have been trying to run private practices, as well.

He said provincial officials will "immediately" begin work to ensure the new clinic is only temporary.

"As soon as the [urgent treatment centre] opens ... we will be shifting to how … we get the emergency department reopened 24/7," Heighton said.

"Temporary could be three, six months, depending on what we can do with recruitment, as well as understanding the exact staffing levels that we have and need to reopen the emergency department."

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Zoom

The longer-term closure of the emergency department removes the only one in central Cape Breton and leaves only a handful of small ERs at facilities in Inverness, Chéticamp, Neils Harbour and Richmond County.

That may add pressure to an ambulance service that is already strained in Nova Scotia, but Heighton said recent additions to the fleet and a change in function to transport-only should alleviate that.

He said the move might also add pressure to the already-busy emergency department at the regional hospital in Sydney, but the new centre should help keep some patients from using emergency resources for issues that are only urgent.

However, Heighton said Nova Scotia Health may open more urgent treatment centres.

"We're looking at where else we can provide access to care across Cape Breton Island and other areas."

Community meeting next week

The Baddeck urgent treatment centre will not take walk-ins, but will be open every day except Thursday.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Health is planning a community meeting for Sept. 28 from 6-8 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion in Baddeck.

Registration is required and is being taken online.

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