By Heather Killen
The Town of Middleton was quick to get down to business on November 5 following the oaths of council. One of the first action items for the council’s new term was to approve a new ad hoc committee formed to look into emergency department closures.
Councillor Marc Britney suggested that in recent months, concerns over emergency department closures at Soldier’s Memorial Hospital have frequently been raised in council and that it could be time for the town to take a more active role in helping to resolve this situation.
“Hopefully this committee won’t be needed for long and that the problems will soon be resolved,” he said. “The committee can serve as a communication link between the community and the health authority.”
On Friday, Annapolis Valley Health advised the public there would be two more overnight closures starting November 10 at 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. on November 11; and again on November 13 from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.
A chronic doctor shortage has forced the emergency department to close frequently over recent months. In June, council sent a letter of concern to the minister of health after the department was shut down more than it was open during the latter half of the month.
At that time council hoped the arrival of a new doctor would help stabilize service, but it also recognized that these interruptions are part of a larger, long-term problem that involves pay disparity among hospitals.
Under provincial contracts, regional hospitals can offer emergency department doctors higher salaries than what is offered at the smaller hospitals. Between July 2 and Nov. 5, the department had been closed 13 times for 12-hour shifts.
One Middleton resident was so angry at the closures she wrote a letter to Premier Darrell Dexter last week.
“When our own medical staff was covering the emerengency room/emergency department it was NEVER closed. Not once,” said Linda Haven. “Now that there is this fancy new system of ‘a pool of Doctors’ it seems to be closed much more frequently. So what you say -- it's only a rural area. We'll in this rural area, many people do not have any doctor, the majority of the residents are seniors, many do not drive -- but life is precious to them also.”
“WHEN will we have reliable 24/7 emergency services available again at Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in Middleton?”