Despite a heavy snowfall, dozens of people gathered in front of a hospital in Middleton, N.S., to raise concerns over the future of the region’s only emergency department.
Organizers of the rally say the community wants to see a plan from the province that will get them 24-hour emergency care.
“It’s not a political rally, it’s not a protest. It’s us communicating with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to let them know of our concerns and our fears,” Lawrence Powell said.
“The fear is real.”
The Soldiers Memorial Hospital emergency department is open only from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily, and some days it is closed entirely.
Residents of the town in the heart of the Annapolis Valley have to take themselves to the Kentville emergency room, which they say is often overcrowded, or the Yarmouth ER which is over an hour away and also crowded. Or, they can wait for paramedics to show up.
On Tuesday morning, about 30 residents rallied for better access to care. Nova Scotia’s opposition leaders also attended the rally.
“Given the challenge and strain on paramedics right now, and the strains even on the regional hospitals, it has an appreciable impact on … health-care outcomes of people in these communities,” N.S. NDP leader Claudia Chender told Global News.
“They’re scared and they’re angry — and I don’t blame them.”
Chender called on the government to find a way that ensures people across the province have access to health care.
“We’ve heard from lots of people in this crowd; they don’t have a doctor, they can’t get access to virtual care, they can’t get an appointment at the clinic over here.”
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said last week that a mobile health clinic will be stationed in Middleton every Sunday through February for drop-ins.
Chender said it’s a good “Band-Aid solution” to have because people need access to that primary care. But, “it’s not enough,” she said.
Some local residents worry their rarely-open emergency department will shut down entirely.
One of those is Albert Johnson, who already has health conditions that make him worried about not having an ER.
“We’re in a drastic situation here with our emergency room usually closed, and the threat is that it could be closed permanently,” he said at the rally.
Johnson said the emergency rooms rural residents have to use when theirs are closed already experience long wait times, even without the extra traffic.
“That’s why I’m here today, hoping to rally support for our emergency room … Hopefully, the present government, or the governments somewhere, can figure out what’s going on,” he pleaded.
“I’ve been waiting now for the past 20 years … and we’re still getting worse.”
Nova Scotia Liberal leader Zach Churchill echoed that people are worried about their health and getting care when they need it.
“Mobile clinics can help to deal with some prescription renewal and some primary care issues, but they don’t help with emergency health care,” he said.
“This emergency department being closed is going to put pressure on all the other emergency departments (elsewhere).”
Organizer Powell said the community isn’t asking for anything out of the ordinary, and that an aging community needs emergency services back.
“We’re not the only jurisdiction in the province that has this problem. If there are a lot of Band-Aid solutions, that’s great — but they are temporary,” he said.
— with files from Skye Bryden-Blom
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