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On almost a daily basis, the residents of Pugwash would have to go elsewhere if they had a medical emergency.

Week after week, the Nova Scotia Health Authority sends out press releases to local media outlets regarding emergency room closures in their area, with Pugwash seeing 12-hour closures almost daily, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

This is a major concern for residents on the North Shore, and one that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.

Earlier this month, the provincial government announced primary health care would be enhanced throughout the province with the addition of 39 health professionals – nurse practitioners, family practice nurses, social workers, and a physiotherapist. While this is great news for those 17 communities, unfortunately Pugwash isn’t one of those.

It wasn’t too long ago The Light interviewed Barbie Cook, site manager for both the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital in Tatamagouche and the North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash. She had said everything has been being done to try and fill that physician shortage to keep the emergency room open during the day. It’s been quite a while since the ER in Pugwash saw an overnight coverage, meaning the paramedic, registered nurse, and oversight physician team is working well for the area.

She also said that, out of the pool of locums available to fill those daytime shifts, physicians are able to choose where they go to work. And, of course, they want to stay in the larger areas of the province, such as Halifax Regional Municipality.

That could be a major problem in years to come if there’s nothing in place in that those locums need to fulfill shifts in ERs across the province. Every rural community could see daytime ER closures, not just in Pugwash. It’s already been happening in other areas as well, but could get worse.

Why can’t the province have something in place whereas physicians need to fulfill shifts in rural parts of Nova Scotia? They’re in the health care field, and should make sure those needs are being met. Nova Scotia isn’t a large province. Rural communities are accessible. Why aren’t those rural communities being looked at and emergency needs being looked after?

Could we use more physicians in the province? Absolutely. The province needs to step up with ways to keep physicians here, and make it more appealing for those outside the province to come here. It’s not fair residents in rural areas aren’t having their medical needs serviced because they don’t live in larger communities.

Anyone who has been to Pugwash would have a hard time denying it’s a beautiful spot and those who live there love it for a variety of reasons. Why isn’t it attracting the physicians it needs? It’s time for the Liberal Government to recognize the situation rural health care is in and make it a priority.

The government has already announced a new medical facility to replace the aging hospital. One can only hope a new facility will enhance the desire for physicians to come to the area. Yes, the new facility is needed, but what’s also needed is the doctors to treat those in medical need.