Treating patients in supply closets final straw for town’s ER doctors

Three doctors are leaving or significantly reducing their hours at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville, N.S., because of overcrowding in the emergency room.

As first reported by The Chronicle Herald, the doctors — Dr. Rob Miller, Dr. Rebecca Brewer and Dr. Keith MacCormick — said their frustration began about a year ago.

Miller said the Nova Scotia Health Authority isn’t doing enough to remedy the overcrowding situation and completely rejected recommendations made in an external review.

“I mean, they’re basically acting like there is no crisis and heavy handed, top down approaches don’t work,” said Miller, who has worked in the emergency room at Valley Regional Hospital for 14 years.

“We need local control. We need local mechanisms to deal with our own problems.”

Miller said there was a day in March 2019 when the emergency room’s 20 beds were full, but they had four more patients without a place to go. He said patients were treated in supply closets and kitchens, and those conditions persist.

Dr. Rob Miller is one of three emergency room physicians who have left the Valley Regional Hospital over overcrowding issues. (CBC)

“Public safety was at risk and we just felt we weren’t being heard and that’s why we took the action that we did,” he said.

Last June, Miller and the other two doctors requested an external review ⁠— to be initiated by the health authority ⁠— looking at the emergency department at the hospital in terms of leadership, safety and overcrowding.

“After much foot dragging, this was finally approved and got done in November of 2019, and since then we’ve seen specific recommendations totally rejected by the [health authority] leadership,” Miller said.

Miller said he intends to stop working at Valley Regional at the end of February. He said it was his understanding that MacCormick was leaving at the end of January, and Brewer would be significantly reducing her shifts. 

The health authority said it has doctors who can pick up the slack.

‘There will be vacancies’

Miller disagrees, saying Valley Regional is losing expertise.

“It will be very difficult to find certified physicians to fill those spots. There will be vacancies, unfortunately,” said Miller.

“But I mean, public safety was at risk and we just felt we weren’t being heard.”

Dr. David Petrie, senior medical director of the emergency program of care for the health authority, said they have January and February’s shifts covered.

Petrie said by March, doctors at the hospital will be expected to “work a little harder and a little longer and doing some extra weekends to make this work.”

There are also offers from doctors who are willing to come in and work, Petrie added.


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