Cape Breton ERs closed this weekend, doctor fears more of the same this summer

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The emergency rooms at two Cape Breton hospitals are closed for the long weekend, and now, there are fears some ERs will be closed nearly all of next month.

A doctor is warning that it’s the first sign of what could be a long summer.

Dr. Margaret Fraser scrolls through the June staffing schedules for the emergency departments at the Glace Bay and Northside General hospitals.

While a few days are covered off for both, she’s concerned about how many dates are blank.

“The rest of the month is empty,” said Fraser. “So those emergency departments are effectively closed for the month of June.”

Fraser shared copies of the ER schedules, dated May 9, with CTV News.

Physicians’ names appear on just two dates for Glace Bay and five for the Northside General.

Greg Boone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority says this isn’t that unusual.

He explains schedules are always shared with doctors a month in advance so that physicians can make plans to cover shifts.

“There would be numerous available shifts on those initial schedules,” Boone says. “And the request is made to physicians to see what they can do in relation to covering those available shifts.”

Boone points out that June is still two weeks away and says while some closures are inevitable, he’s confident a number of those shifts will be filled.

For now, the health authority has already announced ER closures for the long weekend at the Northside and New Waterford hospitals.

The Northside General ER doesn’t reopen until next Thursday.

“In the past three years, we have not been putting out schedules with empty shifts — Until this past May,” Fraser said. “And now, we have more empty shifts than I’ve ever seen. This is not par for the course.”

CTV News spoke later Friday afternoon with Health Minister Randy Delorey. Delorey says he is confident in the health authority’s efforts to fill these shifts, and balance emergency room schedules.

He’s expecting that recruitment of new doctors will help fill the gaps in the future.

Fraser says she’s worried that if staffing is this sparse in June, it will be even worse during peak summer vacation months. Meantime, Boone says there could be help on the way and that a number of new doctors are interested in practising in Cape Breton.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.





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