The Town of Port Hawkesbury is moving ahead with an effort to set up a local physician recruitment committee.
At council’s regular monthly session last week, Coun. Blaine MacQuarrie pushed to have the issue added to the agenda of council’s October committee-of-the-whole meeting for discussion of issues including membership and mandate. Then, he asked that staff then bring forward draft terms of reference to November’s committee-of-the-whole meeting for consideration.
MacQuarrie’s motion passed.
Like many other community hospitals in Cape Breton, the Strait Richmond Hospital, located about 15 kilometres outside town in Evanston, Richmond Co., has struggled this year with closures to its emergency department due to the unavailability of physicians.
“It’s just been continuous, hardly a week goes by that there isn’t an announcement of at least one day, two days,” MacQuarrie said, speaking of emergency department closures, noting that there was even recently a seven-day closure.
“It’s a real concern for people in the community, they’re hearing these announcements all the time and, if they have health issues, it causes a lot of concern about whether they’re going to have to get off to Antigonish if there’s no availability at the ER,” MacQuarrie said.
In addition to day-to-day health issues, he noted it also has to be a concern to local industry, referring to a recent fire in a chip silo at Port Hawkesbury Paper that resulted in four firefighters being sent to hospital.
“Fortunately the ER was open the night of the fire at the mill … what would have happened that night if the ER at the hospital was not open?” MacQuarrie said.
In addition to physician shortages, there is also a shortage of nursing staff, he added.
“Fortunately the ER was open the night of the fire at the mill … what would have happened that night if the ER at the hospital was not open?”
-- Coun. Blaine MacQuarrie
Council had passed a motion at a special council meeting Jan. 15 to establish a committee to address the healthcare crisis and recruitment and retention of doctors.
MacQuarrie noted that the minutes of the meeting indicated that advertising for membership and discussion of the mandate and terms of reference will be addressed after an Nova Scotia Health Authority official met with council, which occurred March 5.
Since then, other events have taken place, including Coun. Trevor Boudreau attending a rural physician conference in Halifax. He noted there will also be a video promoting the community. The council was also able to meet in August with the facility manager and nurse manager of the Strait Richmond Hospital.
“We asked for a meeting to see what can we do as a municipality with the hospital to try to address this issue, and we had a very productive meeting,” MacQuarrie said, adding another meeting is in the planning stages.
One thing they will look at is the effectiveness of measures undertaken by other municipalities such as a financial incentive put in place by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.