Problems off-loading ambulances continue…

Poor public memory contributes to poor health care.

The news this evening was of long delays in off-loading patients at Halifax hospitals. On Monday there were 17 ambulances backed up at the Halifax Infirmary emergency department. One waited up to 10 hours for patient to be accepted into the ER.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU)

blames the current government for staff shortages that cause longer wait times. The executive medical director for the central zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dr. Mark Taylor, claimed that a higher volume of ambulance calls – 53 versus their normal 45 – was the cause for the delays.

Taylor said while it’s true that the number of ambulances waiting at the Halifax Infirmary emergency department peaked at 17, he said, “Most of them were under two hours so they were rotating through.”

Apparently Dr. Taylor doesn’t know that the provincial standard for off-loading patients from an ambulance is 20 minutes. We shouldn’t be surprised because Capital Health, now the NSHA, have failed to meet the standard for the last eight years.

This is not a new problem. It first surfaced in 2010. At the time the Capital Health Authority told the then NDP government they would improve their standards by 10 percent per quarter to reach the provincial requirement. The then health minister allowed this.

No one mentioned how long that would take. In theory it gave the authority until September 2016 to meet the provincial requirement. It was a totally bullshit target designed to remove the problem from the minister’s desk and let the health authority ride out public memory and the government mandate.

It’s cynical, but it works for the executives. Here we are eight years later and nothing has improved.

So, with each news story the public expresses outrage, and they and the unions say the government should do something. The health authority pretends it’s a unique situation. Everyone forgets that this issue was in the news in February, when a one per cent rise in call volume had paramedics waiting for hours for their patients to be seen. That time the NSHA trotted out a different executive – we don’t want to repeat faces and names in the news or the public might remember this is on-going problem – they put their senior director of acute medicine, Madonna MacDonald, before the media to explain that the health authority was trying a number of approaches to address the “complex” problem.

In October 2017 CBC reported that hospitals were struggling to meet standards for off-loading patients. That time two QE2 ER doctors were left to speak to the situation.

I’ve raised the issue in October 2017:

and April 2012:

and January 4, 2012:

and July 30, 2014:

and February 7, 2015:

and March 16, 2015:

and June 12, 2015:

and on November 6, 2016

The public and unions can blame the government du jour, but the real villains in this story are the health care executives who fail us, year after year, decade after decade, government after government.

Better care will only come when the public make the effort to remember who is responsible for this consistent failure. Those people aren’t in Province House, they’re at the secretive bunker containing the offices of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

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