By Heather Killen
At the regular meeting of Middleton town council on March 3, Councillor Marc Britney and Mayor Calvin Eddy updated council about the hospital committee’s recent meeting with officials from Annapolis Valley Health.
Janet Knox, CAO of Annapolis Valley Health, Jeanne Saulnier, site manager of Solders Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Lynne Harrigan, VP Medicine at AVH, recently updated the committee on the status and future of SMH.
Councillor Marc Britney told council the committee was surprised to learn that Middleton has one of the busiest emergency departments in the province. Drawing on a catchment area of about 21,000 people, this emergency department serves people from Berwick through Annapolis Royal, and inland to Springfield from the shore.
Keeping this department staffed continues to be a priority for AVH, Britney said.
ER Closures Down
The number of emergency room closures has dropped from the troubling figures seen in 2012. Since January 2013 the department has been forced to close a total of seven times, down from the 47 interruptions in 2012.
“They are committed to keeping this department open,” Britney told council. “It’s very encouraging from a few years ago. It’s definitely a positive trend. They’re doing everything they can to reduce the closures.”
Middleton Mayor Calvin Eddy agreed that the meeting was very positive. He added that upgrades to the emergency department are also being considered to ensure this department continues to meets the patient demand and modern standards.
“It was a good meeting, very positive,” said Eddy. “We’re confident that we’re going to have a hospital.”
A nursing shortage has temporarily reduced the number of beds, but this will be reversed once the staffing problem has been resolved. AVH officials also indicated there is a long-term plan to revamp the facility to better meet its current and future service demands.
The committee was told that while the hospital’s infrastructure has been maintained over the years, upgrades are needed to keep the emergency department up to current standards.
The operating rooms are in good shape and in the future, day surgeries at the site could potentially be expanded to ease some of the burden at Valley Regional, but there are no definite plans for this, according to Leslie Mulcahy, AVH communications.
She said that there is no dollar amount currently attached to the overall ER upgrade. If the plan proceeds and costing is done, it could include both renovation and equipment costs.
“AVH has developed a basic redevelopment plan for Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital,” she responded in an email. “In looking at the building, we know that it doesn’t adequately support the model of care needed at the site.”
The first goal in redevelopment will be creating appropriate space for primary care (i.e. family physicians and other health team members) and AVH is in the process of submitting a proposal to the government to help gain support for this, she said.
“We’re also looking at modernizing the emergency room to create the best space to provide emergency care,” she confirmed. “All of this will take some time, as there are processes to follow in order to gain support and funding.”
In recent years, with the foundation and government support, new beds have been purchased for the SMH ER. The elevators and sprinkler system have been upgraded, and AVH is currently implementing a new diesel generator.
“The redevelopment plan is a planning document with a vision for possible changes at SMH and looking at how care can be provided there; while this is a proposed model, everything will have to be itemized and broken out into specific projects,” she said. “SMH plays a very important role in the care provided within AVH and our hope is to strengthen that role with additional changes over time.”