Strait-Richmond Hospital planning ER upgrade

ARICHAT: Having secured at least one independent financial donation and an agreement in principle from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), officials at the Strait-Richmond Hospital are “optimistic” about a project to improve efficiencies and strengthen the Evanston facility’s emergency department.

Addressing Richmond Municipal Council at its latest regular monthly session, the hospital’s facility leader and site manager, Cathy Chisholm, was joined by Dana Tracey, nurse manager for the emergency department and nursing unit, to outline a strategy for redevelopment of the Strait-Richmond emergency department and repurposing of the hospital’s current lab area to develop an ambulatory care unit at the 38-year-old facility.

While Chisholm pointed out that the preliminary design for this project, as carried out by the hospital itself, put the project’s price tag at $2.3 million – and added that the hospital does not expect to “get the whole $2.3 million” for these efforts – she is confident that a phased-in approach, combined with the generosity of both public and private donors and the early commitment of NSHA, will see the upgrades take place and address some long-time issues.

As an example, Chisholm noted that the lack of a dedicated ambulatory care space means the hospital has no dedicated space for visiting clinicians, including two that currently make the trip from Antigonish and Sydney to provide medical treatment in Evanston.

“[Their patients] come through our emergency department, because we have no dedicated ambulatory care space,” Chisholm pointed out. “This results in a great amount of conflict, trying to accommodate [these patients], and we really want to keep these specialists, because it prevents travel for the community that we serve.”

She added that the Strait-Richmond’s emergency department does not currently have patient washrooms or a designated triage area, described the hospital’s inpatient-unit nursing station as being “in bad shape” and having infection-control challenges, decried the lack of wheelchair-accessible and geriatric-friendly options in the hospital sections slated for upgrades, and noted that there is no natural separation point between the Evanston facility’s main entrance and its emergency department.

While Chisholm and her colleagues are awaiting the outcome of NSHA budget talks to determine the provincial contribution to the project, they have already received a donation of $300,000 from the family of Strait area native and veteran Cape Breton entrepreneur Joe Shannon to go towards the new ambulatory care unit, which is expected to cost roughly $329,000 according to preliminary design estimates. Chisholm reported that the hospital’s official fundraising wing, the Strait-Richmond Health Care Foundation (SRHCF), has pledged to match the Shannon family donation, and added that the foundation is also in consultations with another potential private donor.

Asked by municipal councillors whether Chisholm and her team had a specific figure in mind in terms of a municipal contribution, she responded by stating that her presentation was strictly for information purposes but that she “would put that back to you folks” in terms of a potential future donation from the county.

“It’s certainly a very aggressive plan,” councillor Alvin Martell noted.

“The building was built in 1980 – times have changed and the need has changed.”