Halifax Infirmary emergency department has reached ‘dangerous tipping point’: NSGEU

Nova Scotia Health is looking to recruit Patient Family Advisors to join its volunteer team that advocates to the health authority. File/ Global News

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) is once again calling on the premier to admit there’s a crisis in the province’s health care system.

NSGEU president Jason MacLean says conditions at the Halifax Infirmary (HI) emergency department have reached “a dangerous tipping point” where patient and health care worker safety are at-risk.

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“Last night at the HI Emergency Department there were up to 17 ambulances backed up, waiting over 10 hours to get the emergency care they need,” MacLean said in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon.

“If Stephen McNeil can find time to be the most traveled premier in the country surely he can find time to visit the Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department so he can see for himself the chaos that patients and health care workers are experiencing on a daily basis.”

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The NSGEU says their Code Critical report highlighted the issue of increasing ambulance arrivals.

The report found the number of ambulance arrivals at the Halifax Infirmary emergency department has steadily increased since 2014.

In December of 2016, there were 1,511 ambulance arrivals, which was the highest number of any month in the previous two years.

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Click to play video: 'McNeil government urged to do more for health care in Nova Scotia'
McNeil government urged to do more for health care in Nova Scotia

“Front line health care workers are doing the best they can, but this crisis is the responsibility of Stephen McNeil and his continuing denial that a crisis exists is cold comfort for the patients who are left waiting on an ambulance stretcher for more than 10 hours just to be seen by a doctor,” said MacLean.

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“Due to the staff shortages Nurse Resource Team nurses, who normally work on inpatient floors, are now being assigned to the emergency department where they have no emergency department experience. This kind of chaos puts the safety of health care workers and patients at-risk, doing nothing is no longer an option.”

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The executive medical director for the central zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority says Monday was an “incredibly busy day” at the Halifax Infirmary emergency department.

Dr. Mark Taylor says the QE2 Hospital would normally receive 45 ambulance calls but on Monday, there were 53.

“The number of ambulance calls was incredibly high,” Taylor told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

While Taylor says it’s true that the number of ambulances waiting at the Halifax Infirmary emergency department peaked at 17, he says most ambulances were not there very long. In fact, he says only one ambulance waited for 10 hours.

“Most of them were under two hours so they were rotating through,” he said.

“Usually, most of the times when we’re talking about emergency department overcrowding, the issue is we can’t get patients out, there’s too many admitted patients waiting in the ED but yesterday was a very unusual day in that the problem was getting patients in because there was such a huge number of patients arriving, which is unusual”

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