N.S. doctors say trickle-down effects of ER closures make their jobs a nightmare

The Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney is the only emergency department open in the CBRM right now, which is leading to higher than normal registration numbers and more demand on staff.

"On the nursing side, I can't tell you how many times I’ve come across my nursing colleagues in a closet crying. They're just finding it very difficult to cope with the volumes and patient demands," says Dr. Margaret Fraser, a physician in Sydney.

Cape Breton is not alone. Nova Scotia Health says many elective and same-day surgeries will be put on hold until at least the end of next week in the central zone that includes Halifax.

The northern zone has also been dealing with staffing challenges, which the province says has been made more difficult by the pandemic.

The provincial co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Coalition says the health system was already stretched before the pandemic hit. Chris Parsons says to be fair to the PC government; it's too early for them to make any significant changes.

"That said, we've had all three major parties in power over the last 15 years and none of them fixed this problem, all of them exacerbated," added Parsons.

John White is the MLA for a community that has seen their emergency room closed for most of the summer. There's no clear time table on when the doors of the Glace Bay ER department will reopen.

"The health care tour is going across the province and we're going to meet with frontline workers. We know that when you speak with frontline workers you get better policies," says White.

Two anesthetists and a psychiatrist have signed job offers to practice in Cape Breton and two family doctors are staying in Halifax, but doctor Fraser says more help is needed.

"If you're working a 10-, 12-, or 14-hour shift with no end in sight you get very tired, despite your best efforts, mistakes will creep in," noted Fraser.

Nova Scotia Health expects people will continue to see longer than normal wait times in emergency departments into the fall.