Nova Scotians in rural communities can count on their emergency departments staying open thanks to a program announced by Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson today, Sept. 19. The emergency department coverage program helps patients access care by making a pool of physicians available to fill emergency room shifts in hospitals across the province. “We said we would keep emergency departments open, and that’s exactly what this government is doing,” said Mr. Wilson. “This is another innovative solution that will help protect rural emergency rooms across the province.” “This government is making the changes needed to provide better care sooner and ensure Nova Scotians have access to the care they need, when and where they need it now that we’re better able to cover these difficult to fill shifts.” The improved scheduling system takes a more focused, provincially co-ordinated approach to streamline processes and meets a key commitment of the Better Care Sooner plan. The $200,000 program is part of the province’s recently released Physician Resource Plan that identified several ways to improve patient care through better planning and management of Nova Scotia’s physicians. This creates opportunities for physicians to work in several emergency departments across the province. To participate, physicians must have appropriate clinical training and experience to match each designated facility. Doctors must also agree to maintain current commitments to emergency departments where they regularly provide service. “This improved scheduling system, together with Better Care Sooner, will provide Nova Scotians in rural communities with more reliable and consistent care,” said Mr. Wilson. The province has partnered with Emergency Medical Care, which also manages the province’s ground ambulance, medical communications centre and air medical transport operations, to deliver the program for one year. Emergency Medical Care works with the province and district health authorities to ensure physicians are not recruited from underserved areas. A request for proposals will be issued to continue the service after the initial contract is complete. “We know how important our emergency departments are to our communities and work hard to keep them open,” said Lynne Harrigan, vice-president of medicine, Annapolis Valley Health. “This program helps us fill unplanned or hard-to-fill vacancies that may otherwise result in closures.” The new program supports other existing programs that provide temporary support to doctors across Nova Scotia. Physicians deliver care to the patients of colleagues who must be away from their practices due to education, maternity, vacation, illness or other types of leave. For more information on the province’s Better Care Sooner and Physician Resource Plans, visit www.novascotia.ca/dhw .