Let’s face it, there’s no quick fix for temporary closure of emergency room services in the province’s outlying towns.
There’s no magic wand, no windfall of funding for a sudden transformation. The best Nova Scotians can hope for is an improvement in a dilemma that people find very distressing.
‘Promises kept,’ stacked against ‘promises not kept’ are typical rallying points anytime an election is anticipated. The NDP government is expressing some satisfaction in the fact that the amount of time emergency rooms are closed is steadily declining – even if modestly.
Health Minister Dave Wilson referred Tuesday to a government report showing ERs were shut down for 15,083 hours in the 2012-13 fiscal year, compared to 17,717 hours in the previous year.
Nova Scotians will remember the inevitable announcements in recent years that a hospital’s ER in some rural area might be closed for a weekend due to staffing shortages. The action taken by the NDP shortly after being elected was the creation of collaborative emergency centres in areas of low population. They combine daytime clinics allowing patients appointments on short notice for non-emergencies. Nighttime staffing includes a registered nurse, paramedic aid and a doctor on call.
Have they helped? Wilson says they have.
In a backwards glance, ERs were closed for a total of 19,116 hours in the 2009-2010 year.
Zero closure hours would be nice – and the opposition sees not achieving that as a promise not kept – but is it realistically possible?
Consider the budgetary cuts that have been made – and made out of necessity – to all government departments in the past several years on the way toward fiscal balance. In spite of such a restriction in funding we’re still seeing an improvement in this area – perhaps not a full cure, but certainly we’re headed in the right direction.
Given the circumstances and struggles of the province to live within its means, that’s the best we can hope for.