Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union report says NSHA needs to educate public on emergency health system

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WATCH: The Nova Scotia Nurses Union is putting the government in the hot seat over primary care access. Elizabeth McSheffrey has the details – May 7, 2019

A new report from the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union is recommending changes to primary health care delivery that maximize the skills of the province’s nurses.

The report concludes that nurses are “well-positioned to address” the health care challenges facing the province, including a shortage of doctors.

“The Nurses’ Union believes that with registered nurses, licenced practical nurses and nurse practitioners practicing to their full potential, the public benefits more from nurses’ expertise and care,” said union president Janet Hazelton in a press statement.

Nurses ought to have more responsibility, she explained, including the ability to write some prescriptions and order related diagnostic tests. The report also recommended that nurses be employed in emergency departments and have the authority to admit and transfer patients.

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According to the 127-page document, launched at the union office in Dartmouth on Tuesday, the NSHA also needs to “redouble its efforts to educate the public on when to use the emergency health system.”

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“People are going in for a chronic illnesses like diabetes that could, and should, be managed by their primary health care physician,” said Hazelton.

“So some of those day clinics could have education on how to deal with your blood pressure; look after yourself if you have diabetes.”

Other recommendations include measures to provide phone or web-based telemedicine access for rural and underserved communities.

As of April 1, the provincial health authority reported that 51,802 Nova Scotians were waiting to be connected with a regular care provider, while statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that 16.2 per cent of Nova Scotian adults who already have a regular care provider waited longer than eight days to get an appointment.

The CIHI also found that 40.5 per cent of adults living in the province found it “very difficult” to get an appointment on weekends, evenings and holidays.

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The report contains 34 recommendations for “optimizing nursing and primary health care” in Nova Scotia, produced through an NSNU investigation on the role of nurses, and a survey of 600 Nova Scotians and four sets of nurses.

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It sorts the recommendations into four categories: system dysfunction, system design, education and work-life and workforce.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey confirmed that he has seen the report. Once he’s read it, he told Global News that he’ll reach out to the union to discuss its suggestions.

“We do have no shortage of you know, stakeholders and people providing suggestions,” he said.

“We need to incorporate that in with the work and the priorities we have within the department and within the health authority but by and large, again, this is what working together within the health care system looks like.”

According to the union, Nova Scotia has the highest burden of chronic disease in the country.

– with files from Destiny Renzelli  

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