Hospitals throughout Nova Scotia continue to see higher than normal emergency visits and demands for hospitals beds, including increasing COVID-19 related admissions and staffing pressures, which are resulting in delays in care and ongoing service reductions.
There are currently approximately 600 staff and physicians off work due to COVID-19 infections, or the requirement to self-isolate due to close contact with a positive case.
At many hospitals, inpatient units are operating with reduced staffing levels and the demand for beds is exceeding the number of staffed beds available, with approximately 355 hospital beds in the province occupied by patients who are awaiting placement in a long term care facility or housing through the Department of Community Services. This situation is having a significant impact on wait times, patient flow, and surgical care. Inpatient beds have been closed at many hospitals due to staff availability, while emergency departments have opened overflow beds to manage high volumes of admitted patients.
Approximately 120 scheduled surgeries and 30 endoscopy or gastroenterology procedures were postponed last week due to these challenges. Outpatient rehabilitation services were also temporarily reduced in Central Zone last week.
Additional surgeries have been cancelled this week and effective today (Jan. 12), the following additional service reductions have been introduced across the province to allow staff to be reassigned to help maintain inpatient, ICU, and emergency care:
- Surgical services have been further reduced, with only urgent and emergent surgeries, including time sensitive cancer surgeries, continuing at this time
- Ambulatory care clinics and procedures will focus on urgent needs only
Diagnostic imaging and laboratory services are continuing and will not be affected at this time. Patients whose procedures or appointments are delayed will be contacted directly. It is also anticipated patients will continue to experience longer than usual waits for care in emergency departments over the coming weeks, particularly with the increase in COVID-19 cases and admissions now being experienced in the province and expected to peak later this winter.
Nova Scotia Health wants to remind those experiencing an emergency, that they should not hesitate to visit their nearest emergency department. Emergency departments at regional hospitals and the QEII Health Sciences Centre are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some smaller sites experience periodic closures. Any such closures are noted here:https://www.nshealth.ca/temporaryclosures
The overall emergency system is never closed. This is due to access to Emergency Health Services (for example, 911), telemedicine, and transfers to other facilities across the province.
- Anyone with urgent medical needs should call 911.
- If your health concern is not urgent, we request you contact your family practice or go to a walk-in clinic.
- For general health advice and information call 811, a service offered 24/7 by experienced registered nurses.
- The Mental Health Crisis Line can also be reached 24/7 by calling 1-888-429-8167.
Nova Scotia Health apologizes for increased wait times in emergency departments and the impacts these high demands for services are having on other patients and our health care providers. We know these past two years have been very difficult for everyone and we continue to ask a lot of our staff and physicians. We are aware of too many situations where our staff have been subjected to abusive behaviour and language, including personal threats. This is not acceptable and is adding to our staffing recruitment and retention challenges. Please be kind and know that we are here to help.
Visitor restrictions remain in place across Nova Scotia Health facilities.
A reminder that individuals should not be going to emergency departments to seek COVID testing. Please visit https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting for more information on testing options.