GUYSBOROUGH – Last Friday the emergency room at Guysborough Memorial Hospital was closed from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. An announcement about the closure was made on Thursday much to the surprise and consternation of the community that the hospital serves. Dependable ER service has always been a point of pride and relief in the catchment area of the local hospital, while other hospitals across the province are faced with doctor shortages that cause temporary or permanent ER closures. This recent closure indicates that Guysborough is no longer immune to the problem of staffing shortages in Nova Scotia’s emergency rooms.
Guysborough Memorial Hospital Foundation Chair Bill Innis told The Journal that the closure of the ER last Friday was a one-off. He said that the physician scheduled to cover the shift was unavailable for personal reasons.
Innis said that Guysborough has never had any substantial ER closures but he is worried that this recent closure may be a sign of things to come. “Going forward, if we have no one, we’re going to be looking at intermittent closures of the ER if we don’t have locums (a temporary employment of a doctor for several weeks) or another doctor to cover.”
The concern over ER closures in Guysborough has been heightened by the impending departure of Dr. Ali Khakpour from the area at the end of December.
In light of the departure of Dr. Khakpour, the hospital has embarked on a recruiting campaign. Innis said, “We’ve done a video and we recently attended a family practice conference in Montreal; in attempts to try to recruit. But we have to keep in mind that almost every community in Nova Scotia is trying to recruit physicians.”
Greg Boone, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, eastern zone, said of the ER closure on Friday in Guysborough, “We know that this is the first time that this has happened, at least that we are aware, at the Guysborough Memorial Hospital Emergency Department. And we know that people are concerned and may be confused on whether the emergency department would be open or closed when they have an expectation that the emergency department is there when you need it. In this circumstance it was temporarily closed.”
Boone said that when doctor shortages occur, the Health Authority works to the best of their ability to cover the shift. “When things like this happen it is not always possible to get the shifts covered and we experience a temporary closure. We work hard to find coverage but it is not always possible.”
“We regret that there was a closure and we are doing our best to ensure that the gaps will be filled,” stated Boone.