Nurse, doctor shortages leading to local ED closures

·2 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – As residents in the Guysborough area start marking off the days on their calendars when the emergency department (ED) is closed over the first two weeks of August, many are left wondering why the department is closing when the Guysborough Memorial Hospital (GMH) currently has five doctors on staff.

Part of the answer lies in a shortage of nursing staff. At the regular Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) council meeting on July 20, Councillor Paul Long said the previous day’s closure of the ED was due to a nursing shortage and that COVID was impacting nursing staff levels significantly.

Public service advisories issued by Nova Scotia Health (NSH) that provide notice of unscheduled ED closures previously contained information as to the cause of the closure. In a recent email from an NSH spokesperson, it was explained to The Journal that NSH is “no longer listing the cause of a closure. Each zone had their own templates for ED closures and for consistency we adopted one standard for the whole province. One of the reasons we no longer list a cause for the closure is because it almost comes across as blaming a profession for a closure and that doesn’t send the welcoming, cooperative, team approach to health care that we want in each community.”

In raw data provided by NSH to The Journal for June to mid-July 2022, ED closures at Guysborough Memorial Hospital amounted to 115.5 hours of unscheduled closures, 32 of those hours were listed as due to a nursing shortage, while the rest, 79.5 hours, were attributed to physician shortage.

Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso experienced 216 hours of unscheduled ED closures, through June up to July 26, all due to physician shortage.

Eastern Shore Memorial Hospital in Sheet Harbour and Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck have experienced the most hours of unscheduled closures – each expected to surpass 1,000 hours by the beginning of August, all due to physician shortages.

While most of the unscheduled closures are due to physician shortages, followed by nursing shortages, other reasons were also provided in the data, such as repairs and paramedic service.

To further delve into Guysborough Memorial Hospital’s ED closure rate, The Journal asked Guysborough Memorial Hospital Foundation Chair Bill Innis how many of the five doctors on staff are currently working in the ED, he said – to the best of his knowledge – only two at this time, but the other doctors on staff are working towards that certification.

NSH confirmed on Tuesday, August 2 that there are two physicians, Dr. Ranjini Mahendrarajah and Dr. Jean Marie, providing emergency care services in Guysborough at this time. Adding, “Recent closures are related to resource shortages, of both physicians and nurses. We are not able to specify which days we are short which resources.”

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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