Government Releases First Accountability Report on Emergency Departments

Department of Health (To Jan. 11)

May 11, 2010 12:32 PM

A new accountability report provides more information that will help guide the right decisions for providing emergency care.

Health Minister Maureen MacDonald tabled the first Accountability Report on Emergency Departments in the Nova Scotia legislature today, May 11. The report provides accurate, reliable data to better understand the challenges facing the province's emergency care system.

Ms. MacDonald said the report is another step in government's plan to bring better health care to families and addresses government's commitment to improve ministerial accountability for emergency departments.

"This report confirms a long-standing problem in a number of communities," she said. "Leadership is about sharing this information openly, so everyone knows the extent of the challenge, and can help shape the solutions."

In 2009-10, emergency departments in 38 hospitals across the province were open 94 per cent of the time. Twenty-five of the 38 hospitals had no closures over the past year.

Thirteen hospitals did experience closures, for a total of 19,116 hours.

About 54 per cent of the closures were unscheduled, meaning that doctors or nurses were unexpectedly unavailable to cover shifts.

Before September 2009, Nova Scotia had no standard process to collect data on emergency department closures. This made it difficult to plan across the system, an issue highlighted in Dr. John Ross's Interim Report on Emergency Care in Nova Scotia, released in April.

"This report is a huge step in the right direction of providing the public with accurate information about the controversial and emotional topic of emergency department closures," said Dr. Ross, provincial advisor on emergency care. "The accountability lies with health-care providers, DHAs, and the Department of Health to ensure that emergency care is available 24/7.

"We can do this by rethinking how we deploy our limited number of doctors and nurses to deliver a far better service in the near future."

The Annual Accountability Report on Emergency Departments will also serve as a benchmark, so data can be compared and progress charted annually.

The annual report is required under the province's Emergency Department Closures Accountability Act, introduced by Ms. MacDonald in 2009. It requires district health authorities to consult with their communities about closures during public forums and to consider solutions proposed by the community to keep emergency departments open.

"Temporary closures of emergency rooms have been a long-standing problem," said Ms. MacDonald. "We are taking the time to get and share the best advice and information to support the right decisions for emergency care in every region."

In September 2009, the province appointed Dr. Ross as Provincial Advisor Emergency Care. Dr. Ross's interim report set the groundwork for a collaborative, provincial approach to improve the emergency care system.

Government also allocated $3 million in the 2010-11 budget for an Emergency Department Protection Fund and is opening more beds which will help patients move faster through the emergency departments and into admissions.


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     Nova Scotia has more information that will help

strengthen emergency care across the province.

     Health Minister Maureen MacDonald today (May 11th)

released the first Annual Accountability Report on Emergency

Departments.

     The report shows that emergency rooms were open 94 per

cent of the time last year (2009-2010) and almost half of

all emergency room closures were scheduled.

     Ms. MacDonald calls the report an important step in

improving emergency care in the province.

     Government has set aside three-million-dollars for an

Emergency Department Protection Fund and opened more

hospital beds to help move patients more quickly through

emergency departments.

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Media Contact: Avril Vollenhoven
              Department of Health
              902-424-3731
              Cell: 902-221-6483
              E-mail: avril.vollenhoven@gov.ns.ca