Strait-Richmond Hospital facility manager Kathy Chisholm outlined priorities for the Evanston facility to the Richmond County Seniors’ Council at the Riverdale Community Centre on May 11.

Now approaching 40 years as a healthcare facility, the Strait-Richmond Hospital needs work.

During a meeting of the Richmond County Seniors’ Council on May 11 at the Riverdale Community Centre, Strait-Richmond Hospital facility manager Kathy Chisholm told the group that the Evanston facility was constructed for the needs of physicians, patients and staff in the 1980s and is starting to show its age.

As a result, hospital administration identified priority areas for improvement to meet the needs of the 21st century.

The first was in ambulatory care. Patients requiring specialists like surgeons – who typically see 50 patients per day – have to go through the hospital’s emergency department. When physicians are at the hospital, they see patients in a room in the emergency department set up for patient care, not patient visits, she said.

In 2016-2017, Chisholm said the hospital had 10,549 emergency room visits and 1,742 clinic visits in an area of the hospital that has only nine stretchers and one chair.

The second priority area is the lack of washrooms in the emergency department for nursing staff and patients.

Another problem identified was in the area of triage. Rather than seeing a nurse, patients at the Strait-Richmond Hospital first see a member of the clerical staff to register.

Work stations were also noted as problem areas in the hospital. Chisholm pointed out that many desks at the hospital are older and became cluttered when the facility switched to a computer-based system a decade ago. There is also a lack of ergonomic work spaces for staff, and there is a lack of storage space in the hospital, Chisholm said.

The lack of wheelchair accessibility was also highlighted by administration.

Another area of concern surrounds the lack of easy access to an ice machine. Chisholm said ice is necessary to preserve specimens.

The deteriorating condition of the in-patient nursing station has also been discussed, including the lack of air conditioning, the poor condition of the structure and the potential for infection control problems.

In addressing the priority areas, it was decided that since all laboratory services are already shipped to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, or Halifax, then better uses can be found for that space.

One of the main goals for administration is the development of an ambulatory care space that accommodates current clinics and attracts future clinics, Chisholm stated.

Other goals identified by hospital administration include the need to improve emergency triage standards; improving the flow in the emergency department to shorten current wait times; constructing accessible washrooms within the emergency department; creating a divide between sick patients who require emergency services and clinic patients who are well but vulnerable; upgrading work spaces; and beefing-up security for staff and patients using the emergency department.

Another goal is to centralize all registration at the front desk, by renovating and expanding the current lab and x-ray registration areas, and considering the consolidation of all registration services.

The hospital received funding in the last fiscal year from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) for a preliminary design undertaken by Archibald & Fraser. Hospital administration then held several meetings with the design team.

In addition to financial support from the NSHA, the Strait-Richmond Hospital Foundation was also the recipient of a $300,000 donation from Joe Shannon. The foundation has agreed to match that donation. Chisholm said the foundation received interest from another private donor, whose donation is contingent on a financial contribution from the NSHA. Chisholm is hopeful the health authority will contribute.

Before proceeding with a final design, the hospital needs a signed financial agreement between the NSHA and the hospital foundation, Chisholm said, noting that the estimate of $2.3 million from 2017 has already increased.

To make the construction a reality, Chisholm said that the Strait-Richmond Hospital will need the support of the community in the form of donations and volunteers to conduct fundraising through the hospital foundation.

On June 5 at 7 p.m., the Riverdale Community Centre will host an information session about the development of the Ambulatory Care Clinic and upgrades to the emergency department. Guest speakers include Chisholm and Shannon.

Now that the NSHA is expected to provide their financial contribution and after receiving a generous donation from Shannon, with the prospect of more private gifts, it is up to the community to fundraise the rest. Fortunately, this is an area known to give and help, both of which the Strait-Richmond needs at this critical time.

It goes without saying that the Strait-Richmond Hospital plays an irreplaceable role in local health care service delivery, and with the Strait area population continuing to age, this facility could not be any more significant.

If there ever was a worthy cause, this is it. It will now be up to residents, businesses and groups to dig deep and pound the pavement.