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Nova Scotia aims to improve emergency care

HALIFAX – The government of Nova Scotia has released its “Better Care Sooner Plan”, which is designed to improve the delivery of emergency care in the province. According to Premier Darrell Dexter and Minister of Health Maureen MacDonald (pictured), the plan will improve the quality of emergency care, reduce overcrowding and wait times for patients in emergency rooms, and provide better healthcare for families.

“This plan keeps emergency rooms open and gives communities access to emergency care day and night,” said Premier Dexter. “Communities that once had closed doors will soon have services matched to their needs. It will ensure people in this province get the level of care they need and deserve.”

The Better Care Sooner Plan is based on the recommendations of Dr. John Ross, the province’s emergency care advisor. The plan includes the following themes to improve the province’s emergency care system:

• Improve access to primary care, especially in smaller communities. This will lessen the burden on emergency rooms and provide better care to patients.

• Make emergency care more patient-centred and streamlined. This will shorten wait times and provide good quality care across the province.

• Provide care that is better tailored to those whose needs are more complex, like seniors and people with mental illness.

• Increase public awareness of 911 and healthlink nurse line 811. This will ensure people can access the care and support they need sooner.

“We want patients to be able to see their doctor more quickly and get better care from healthcare teams, so they can avoid going to an emergency room,” said Ms. MacDonald. “For those who do require emergency care, we want their journey through the emergency department to be as short, safe and comfortable as possible. That is what Better Care Sooner is all about.”

A critical component of the plan includes creating new collaborative emergency centres, which will match the level of services with the needs of residents in the community. Patients will have access to a team of healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors and paramedics to provide the level of care that is required. That will enable patients to get same or next day appointments.

“I believe that nurse practitioners, along with family-practice nurses, paramedics – all of us working together as a team – makes a lot more sense in today’s health-care environment,” said Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan. “As a doctor, I can’t be all things to all people. I need my colleagues to work with me. So I think building capacity and expanding the reach of healthcare through different people doing the work makes good sense.”

Including the collaborative emergency centres, the plan outlines 33 actions that will be fully implemented between now and 2014. They include:

• Every regional hospital must develop a plan to shorten time frames for moving patients from ambulance into hospital, and from triage to a hospital bed or departure.

• Health professionals will be supported in working to the full extent of their training, abilities and experience.

• Patients will get more information and be made more comfortable as they wait.

• More nurse practitioners are being hired to work in nursing homes, and paramedics will provide more care for seniors in nursing homes and at home so they will not have to go to emergency.

• A public education campaign will be launched so that people will have a greater understanding of 811 nurse line and 911 paramedics.

• Paramedics will get additional training and equipment to enhance their life-saving skills. This includes training to deliver a clot-busting drug for heart attack patients.

• Dedicating a plane and a new two-stretcher ambulance to save valuable driving time for paramedics and transport patients comfortably and cost-effectively.

• Health-care funding will be changed to reward better health results for patients.

Cape Breton District Health Authority CEO John Malcom welcomes the province’s effort to unclog crowded emergency rooms.

“In order to improve emergency care in Nova Scotia, we need to enhance things outside of the hospital – primary care, access to 911, access to 811 ... so there is a variety of options to respond to patients needs,” said Mr. Malcom. “The Better Care Sooner Plan helps do just that.”

For more information or to download a copy of the report visit

Posted December 16, 2010