Three physicians at the Valley Regional Hospital have announced they are leaving the hospital in Kentville, N.S., over administrative concerns.
Dr. Rob Miller, Dr. Rebecca Brewer and Dr. Keith MacCormick are all emergency physicians who have been involved in the campaign to bring attention to the need for long-term care beds.
“This is really the sequel to that. We just don’t see any accountability for the actions and inactions of the Nova Scotia Health Authority,” said Dr. MacCormick in a phone interview with Global News Tuesday.
In April 2019, a GoFundMe page was created to raise $100,000 for the Valley Regional Hospital and especially the emergency department, which “is suffering from overcrowding due to a lack of LTC beds,” as stated on the page.
“This fund was started to raise money to either reopen one of the old facilities or build a new one.”
MacCormick has been working 13- to 17-hour shifts in the emergency department and says he is considered full-time.
He said the emergency department model has been under stress for a long time, but the latest stresses in the last couple of years are the long-term care bed issue and pressure from the lack of primary-care providers.
“Someone has to blow the whistle on this, someone has to stand up and say there are better ways to do this — why aren’t they being done and who’s accountable?” MacCormick said.
PC health critic Karla MacFarlane says that in order to increase recruitment and retention of physicians, the government must address the number of patients without family doctors and the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s failure to consider improvements suggested by health professionals.
“When people don’t have a family doctor, they often go to their local ER for treatment,” MacFarlane said in a press release on Tuesday. “The lack of access to family doctors is a key factor in overcrowding at hospitals.”
She also said that health professionals need to be heard when trying to make recommendations to improve the health-care system, which is what MacCormick is calling for.
“We need to recognize that physicians who work in emergency department should have stakeholder status in decision making, and without physician influence, in that regard, there are a whole bunch of decisions and policies that come into the workplace that are more based on resource management than patient-centred care,” MacCormick said.
NSHA said that they’ve been working with the Valley Regional Hospital team for nine months and there is a working group in place, which is now successfully implementing the recommendations to come from an external review.
“Everyone on the team is pleased with the progress and is moving on. A great deal of time and energy has gone into this work, and the VRH is to be commended for their willingness to work together to improve the ED and patient care. Most importantly, the public needs to know it will receive safe, quality care at VRH,” stated the NSHA on Wednesday to Global News.
Dr. Lois Bowden with the Nova Scotia Health Authority also said that 25 recommendations from doctors have been taken into consideration.
“So we are actually very active in working through those recommendations. The recommendations have been divided into culture, operations and governance — anybody was welcome to be on the working group.”
Kings North MLA John Lohr also recognizes a lack of resources at regional hospitals as a contributor to overcrowding and long wait times.
“The fact that we are soon to lose three physicians tells a clear story that this hospital needs more resources to support existing staff and to offer adequate care,” said Lohr in a press release. “It’s difficult to make a case for physicians to practice in rural areas when we can’t retain the physicians that we already have.”
But despite MacCormick’s decision to leave, he said that will not stop him from being a doctor.
“There are so many different ways that citizens and residents of this area in the valley could be helped,” he said. “I’m not going to stop being a doctor because I can’t work in ED.”
MacCormick said that there’s a mechanism for Doctors Nova Scotia to “officially be involved in grievances and stand up for doctors.”
“I’m hopeful that’s going to come to pass when situations like this happen in the future, Doctors N.S. will have a mechanism for which it can act, but unfortunately it hasn’t helped us at Valley Regional,” he said.
At the moment, Bowden said the hospital has been able to fill the shifts and mitigate the loss of the three physicians withdrawing from ER.
“Our core shifts are filled for January, February and March. That’s 180 shifts total in a month,” Bowden said.
Two new physicians will also be joining the emergency department at Valley Regional Hospital in July.
-With files from Alicia Draus