Health minister looking at Nova Scotia emergency room model

Ryan Ross
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Western Hospital in Alberton

Emergency room closures have become a persistent problem in western P.E.I. and Health Minister Doug Currie is looking to Nova Scotia for a possible solution.

Currie, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and a few other MLAs are heading to the mainland this week to look at how some Nova Scotia hospitals have used paramedics and other health-care workers to keep their emergency rooms open.

"We're looking at the model and seeing what the potential opportunities are," he said.

The trip comes at a time when Health P.E.I. is closing the emergency room overnight at Western Hospital in Alberton for almost half the month of January.

It was also closed for a full 24 hours on Jan. 13.

Currie said his focus is on looking for solutions to the emergency room problem in Alberton.

"If you always do what you always did you always get what you always got," he said.

Before the province makes any changes it will need to have discussions with the Medical Society of P.E.I., the P.E.I. Nurses Union and Island EMS, Currie said.

"The role of the advance care paramedic, bringing them into a hospital is new and different."

Currie said the province is bringing in locums to fill temporary positions in western P.E.I. and is recruiting to find permanent doctors.

The changes could mean more paramedics in P.E.I. as their roles are expanded, but at this point the province is just looking at the different model and how it could be implemented, Currie said.

"My priority is consistent, stable, safe health-care services in all communities on Prince Edward Island."

Among the facilities Currie plans to visit is the All Saints Springhill Hospital in Springhill where they use a collaborative emergency centre (CEC) model.

Ann Keddy, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland Health Authority, which includes Springhill's hospital, said the change came after an emergency care specialist the Nova Scotia government hired suggested doctors concentrate on seeing more patients during the day.

He suggested paramedics and emergency room nurses staff overnight emergency room hours at smaller rural hospitals with an emergency room specialist available for consultation by phone, Keddy said.

"In all cases they call the medical oversight physician."

Cumberland Health Authority's first collaborative emergency centres opened in July 2011, with two more opening in 2012.

Those centres are in Pugwash, Springhill and Parrsboro.

Along with the emergency rooms staying open, Keddy said the doctors have been able to see more of their regular patients because they aren't taking time off from their practice when they work overnight in the ER.

"They work longer days but they don't have that phone ringing at three o'clock in the morning," she said.

Keddy said the move to emergency collaborative centres has made a big difference at the rural hospitals.

In Pugwash the hospital's emergency room was closed for 1,400 hours during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, she said.

Keddy said since then it hasn't closed at all, which meant people in the community never had to wonder if it was open.

"There's always somebody there."

Organizations: Western Hospital, Cumberland Health Authority, Medical Society P.E.I. Nurses Union All Saints Springhill Hospital

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Alberton Springhill Pugwash

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Recent comments

  • Garth Staples
    January 16, 2013 - 13:00

    As I suggested is the liability question re NPs a red herring? Question answered . NOT A PROBLEM IN Ontario. Oh gawd the Minister et al will be off to Toronto!

  • merge the maritimes
    January 16, 2013 - 07:14

    The elephant in this room that PEI Liberal Minister of Health Doug CURRIE isn't saying is that the Collaborative Care Centre model coming out of Nova Scotia was an initiative by the Nova Scotia NDP Minister of Health Maureen MACDONALD. PEI liberals and conservatives couldn't manage a convenience store without running it into debt and hiring all their goon hockey buddies and drinking & eating the profits. I'd take the Nova Scotia NDP any day over the clowns we have in PEI provincial politics. Just merge us as a regional municipality into Nova Scotia and be done with it.

  • Jim
    January 15, 2013 - 12:10

    I find it interesting that we are looking for more nurse practitioners or using paramedics before we fully utilize the health professionals that are located in every part of our province - pharmacists. Pharmacists diagnose and recommend therapy every day. Right now they are limited to prescribing over the counter therapy. In most other provinces pharmacist scope has been expanded to include prescription drugs. My pharmacists know my health history and would probably spend much more time ensuring I get an appropriate medication compared to a clinic doctor that is in and out the door in 5 minutes. Why doesn't the government look to the other provinces to see how this is working?

  • Stay At Home
    January 15, 2013 - 11:37

    Quote: Currie, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and a few other MLAs are heading to the mainland this week. end quote. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? Shouldn't there be one or two people smart enough to go meet with the people in the hospitals and report back, rather than pay for multiple people travelling, eating, sleeping, and all that goes with it? I almost cry at the wasteful and foolish spending. Kind of makes the MLA's look like they can't do fact finding without a herd of them travelling away from PEI...please explain.

  • Garth Staples
    January 15, 2013 - 11:06

    The Depts of Education and Health are dysfunctional. Huge salaries to management and then they keep hiring consultants and keep 'studying'. Does the system not receive clear instructions from the Liberal Minister of the Liberal Ghiz Govt? MARITIME UNION would fix this mess.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      January 15, 2013 - 18:56

      Good try Garth, but I for one would not like to give up our rights as a province on the pretext that it might fix healthcare. Again if you take the profit out of the mandated healthcare it would fix itself. Cut in half the size of the salaries for these overpaid bunch of crooks.

  • don
    January 15, 2013 - 10:06

    Health P.E.I. CEO (Dewar) salary as of 2012 $199,600 now I think that is a little high. Then you have executive director for medical affairs, Dr. Richard Wedge, who makes a whopping $275,500 a year. Then you look at most family physicians make between $141,300 and $152,500. And as high as $291,900 plus perks (that should be told to his boss's the tax payers)no wonder health on pei is in the hole. Now they want shorter times well 3 doc's gave one patient shorter time and the child died how much shorter can you get? Now how many lives are dewar and wedge saving each day? Sitting in a nice fancy office and i bet they are not $10.00 chairs. to many chief's.

  • From away
    January 15, 2013 - 10:03

    PEI is decades behind the rest of the maritimes (and Canada), with regards to "best practices" and current models of health care delivery. It is time to stop trying to repeatedly reinvent the wheel but adopt what more progressive and forward thinking provinces are doing. No more fooling around and wasting money on consultants, committees, and studies.

  • mac
    January 15, 2013 - 08:41

    It is becoming more and more clear that we have duds as leaders. Where is Dr. Mayne, the great flop in the invention of the Bio Science Park, - did he get fired? No- related to long time liebral supporters, that did not happen. Instead Ghiz made him deputy minister of health, - great , - they have to hire consultants to the tune of $ 75,000 to study ER waiting time, and now a bunch is trotting off to N. S. to learn there. We are paying these useless deputies large amount of money,(Melissa the wasterall among them) and all they can do is dole out contratcs. Fire those deputies and hire someone worth the money and one that has some smarts, and not cronies of golf pals of the Premier. --- Really again it all boils down to the incompetense of Ghiz. This man has cost us a lot of grief and money, aqnd now he is fixing to hang on longer, - shame, shame.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    January 15, 2013 - 08:31

    Socialized medicine is a failure. Anyone with a brain can see that the system is being "gamed" by "all" parties involved. In order for socialized medicine to work profit must be taken out of the equation otherwise prices and costs keep rising. This why we cannot afford to pay for it. EVERYONE associated with the "HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY" is to blame because in our society today everyone seems to be out for themselves and the system promotes it. A real government would not only be hiring NP's (nurse practitioners) they should also be paying for other types of medicine such as naturopathy, chiropathy, etc. We have legislated everything in our lives today with great detrimental effect. Nowadays if someone wants to help someone else you should not have to check with the government to see if you are allowed or if you have the "proper insurance" or forms or other crap that is meant by design to keep us separated from each other. If something is so broken that it cannot be fixed, face it, get a new system and be done with it.

  • merge the maritimes
    January 15, 2013 - 08:25

    Halifax does so many things better than Charlottetown. PEI should merge with Nova Scotia and become a regional municipality of that province.

  • jrsplace
    January 15, 2013 - 07:54

    Islanders have to stop complaining about our healthcare. We only need two hospitals. One in Summerside and one in Charlottetown. Charlottetown should be the best one though since it is in the capital!

      January 15, 2013 - 10:17

      And I bet you live there!

  • alfredd
    January 15, 2013 - 07:48

    why is this news, - would not the minister and his deputy plus the herd of civil servants and Health PEI, not make it their business to be on top of what is done other places, at all times - be on the out-look for innovations and betterment where ever they can find it, on an ongoing basis, - what do they do otherwise, sit and look at their belly - buttons and count the hours to quitting time??

  • Addie
    January 15, 2013 - 07:37

    The PEI government has been looking at those options for many years. In fact when Mildred Dover was Minister of Health she buckled in to the medical society as did all of her successors. An excellent collaborative health care model was tried in O'Leary some years ago. It utilized the services of nurse practitioners but Doctors would not accept them resulting in a failure. A failure of an excellent system that the public were happy with but doctors were more concerned with protecting their turf. It is a well known fact that many physicians here on PEI will not share their work with nurse probationers . Perhaps it's time the health minister called their bluff and ordered ER physicians to accept new models of care that include RNs, paramedics taking on new roles and most importantly utilizing nurse practitioners . I suspect the majority of cases at the ER do not require the services of an MD. On one hand they are worked off their feet but on the other they don't want to give up the authority or power they have. Yes changing our ER service will not go down well with all and we may lose a few doctors over it, but we will likely end up with a much more accessible and consistent ER service in all of our hospitals.

  • don
    January 15, 2013 - 00:49

    Doug Currie just shows how stupid our health minister is he cant with ALL the staff he has hired has to look at NS for help. dear God we are in trouble.

  • mary-anne
    January 14, 2013 - 21:36

    It never ceases to amaze me how much the Minister of Health, Doug Currie is fast becoming the man with the most words but with very little credibility. just a few weeks ago in the Legislature he stated that he would be hiring Nurse Practitioners to work in clinics all over the Island. All across this country NPs are working in clinics and hospitals with a wide scope of practice, but not here on PEI. It should be noted that the legislation allowing NPs to practice has been pass for some time , but Minister Currie is showing more and more that he sides with the Doctors in not allowing NPs them to have any scope of practice that is close to what they are trained for and the reason is quite clear the doctors have control over Doug Currie and they don't want these NPs doing their job that they are well qualified for because it will cut into their bank account even though they say they are soo busy. So I would encourage the public to find out for themselves how manny NPs have been hired to date, period. I would be very surprise if they have hired one .