Docs populi

Doctors mount very public campaign for better hometown care

The MEGA docs: Dr. Rob Miller, Dr. Rebecca Brewer and Dr.Keith MacCormick

DR. ROB MILLER REMEMBERS THE DAY HE MADE UP HIS MIND. The day he decided to go public and take direct action to improve things for himself and his emergency room patients at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, NS.

It was March 7, 2018. The day, they admitted 24 patients into Valley Regional Hospital’s 20-patient emergency room. The day Miller and fellow emergency room doctors Rebecca Brewer and Keith MacCormick knew they had to do more than administrators could, or would, do to fix things.

The three doctors teamed up to form Make Emergency Great Again (MEGA), a campaign to raise awareness about how more long-term care beds are key to delivering the emergency care we all want and doctors want to give us. They intended to make it a very public campaign—and they did.

The doctors wore t-shirts with the slogan, “MEGA No Surrender”, demonstrated outside their own emergency room, joined rallies in Halifax and created a GoFundMe page.

More long-term beds just a start

The doctors point out the lack of long-term care beds is only one of many factors contributing to the stress in emergency room operations.

In addition to the constant work overload the doctors carry, they’re concerned about many other potential stressors they are bound to face, like the upcoming flu season.

“It could easily be a worse situation than we faced last year,” Miller said.

“You can’t operate at 100 per cent efficiency all the time, because you have no ability to deal with surges,” Brewer said. “They should be up-staffing and adding hours to make sure we’re prepared for winter, but they don’t.

“They know it’s coming every year, but there’s nothing done to prepare.”

Administrators completely out of touch

MEGA also takes aim at the overall failure of the administrators in the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) to grasp the reality faced by people needing emergency care and by frontline workers delivering that care.

“Time is spent defining the problems, and when you suggest solutions, it just sort of hits a stone wall,” Brewer said.

“The NSHA has to start listening to frontline physicians and frontline nursing staff,” Miller said. “They are familiar with the problems and are applying solutions at the grassroots level.”

Brewer said she’d like to see NSHA start addressing the problems they’ve outlined, even in small ways.

“I would argue then, at least something’s being done,” she said.

Brewer said NSHA ought to consider other means of helping long-term care patients as well, such as more continuing care assistance a more mobile nursing workforce.

Miller stressed that control over health-care administration should be locally-based, rather than administrated by a large bureaucratic body like the NSHA.

“Whenever you have these amalgamations, they never work out. We know this, because we see it all the time,” Miller said. “They say, ‘This is going to save us all sorts of money,’ and it never does. It’s always bigger bureaucracy and bigger dysfunction.”

Direct citizen input part of the remedy

MEGA believes one good way to remedy that failure would be with a citizens’ assembly to oversee and enforce the necessary changes to the healthcare system.

The NSHA claims to be well aware of the need to address the crisis in frontline emergency room care in the two hospitals in the Annapolis Valley. But, its only action so far was bureaucratic: it appointed an emergency physician and nurse to conduct an external review of the issues.

Meanwhile, the government is winding back its 2015 move to amalgamate all medical care administration in Halifax.

The NSHA removed three vice-presidents in mid November. NSHA Interim CEO Janet Davidson said it would help to provide consistent care to Nova Scotians wherever they are in the province and give hospitals more autonomy to make decisions in a timely fashion.

One of the changes the health authority is hoping to make will be to ensure zone vice-presidents live in their respective zones.

Davidson said the objective is to “have a much more on the ground view of what’s happening and be able to respond to issues and concerns more effectively.

There is no denying healthcare activists, like the MEGA doctors in Kentville, made it happen. All the more reason for them to keep pushing for a citizens’ assembly to  design and oversee implementation of  a healthcare system that first, last and always puts people first.



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