Nova Scotia Health Authority update on service reintroduction

 
On May 25, Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) began the gradual process of reintroducing programs and services following unprecedented changes that had been made to the health system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“We know our patients continue to have concerns regarding the status of the surgery, procedure, or treatment they were scheduled to receive in recent months,” said Dr. Brendan Carr, NSHA president and CEO. “We are making all efforts to assess and prioritize patients as our clinical teams review patient lists and reschedule appointments. This process will take time and we again ask for patience as we continue to increase the level of activity within our programs and services.”
 
One of the key areas of service reintroduction is surgery. While emergency, urgent and time-sensitive cancer surgeries continued during COVID-19, there were 3,214 scheduled surgeries postponed between March 16 and May 25. The current approach to increase the number of surgeries is to focus on priority areas without impacting inpatient care needs. That includes completing day surgeries and outpatient procedures such as cataract surgeries and endoscopy procedures.
 
  • 22 per cent of the patients who had their scheduled surgeries postponed have now had their surgery completed and 11 per cent of those postponed have been given a new surgery date.
  • The increase in the number of surgeries is:
  • May 18-24: 461 surgeries (prior to service reintroduction)
  • May 25-31: 732 surgeries (59 per cent increase from previous week)
  • June 1-7: 861 surgeries (18 per cent increase from previous week)
 
“Our teams are working hard to prioritize cases and increase our capacity so that as many Nova Scotians as possible can get the surgery they need,” said Dr. Greg Hirsch, senior medical director, Perioperative (Surgical) Services “We have made adjustments to how we deliver and schedule services to allow for more surgery while maintaining COVID-19 precautions.”
 
Progress has also been made to increase the number of endoscopy procedures:
  • Pre-May 18-24: 89 endoscopy procedures (prior to service reintroduction)
  • May 25-31: 156 endoscopy procedures (75 per cent increase from previous week)
  • June 1-7: 422 endoscopy procedures (170 per cent increase from previous week)
 
Other areas where the level of activity has increased has included:
 
Diagnostic Imaging
 

Exam

May 18 – 24 (prior to service reintroduction)

May 25 – 31 (week 1)

June 1 – 7 (week 2)

CT

959

1,239 (29% increase from previous week)

1,358 (12% increase)

MRI

253

302 (19% increase from previous week)

379 (25% increase)

Ultrasound

843

1,158 (38% increase from previous week)

1,297 (12% increase)

Total

2,055

2,699 (31% increase from previous week)

3,061 (13% increase)

 
 
Laboratory Services
  • Blood collection services continue by appointment only with the exception of some sites in Northern Zone where walk-in service is available.
  • The number of blood collection samples collected during April was 32,873 and the number collected during May was 40,597 – a 23.5 per cent increase (Note: Lab data is available on a monthly basis at this time).
 
Outpatient clinics
  • Across the province, outpatient clinics that include clinics for IV treatments, blood transfusions, wound care and specialist consultations have been increasing the number of appointments available while providing urgent care.
 
Cancer Care Program
 
Patients will be contacted directly when their appointment has been scheduled. Those who feel their health status has changed should contact their primary care provider (physician or nurse practitioner) or health care team. Patients are reminded that NSHA is taking precautions to ensure our facilities are safe. Public health measures continue inside our facilities, including social distancing and access control. 
 
Since the pandemic began, Nova Scotians continued to receive primary care, emergency and urgent care, virtual care in many programs and services and mental health and additions support.
 
“We knew since the beginning of the pandemic it was vital to continue to deliver a continuum of mental health and addictions services including outpatient, crisis and inpatient care to meet people’s needs,” said Sam Hodder, senior director, Mental Health and Addictions Program. “Our outpatient services have been supported primarily using telephone and video platform visits and in-person when needed. Our priority was to make sure we were meeting the needs of Nova Scotians at this time.”
 
From March 22 to May 30, the level of activity within the Mental Health and Addictions Program included:
  • 4,945 calls to the provincial crisis line
  • 1,698 new intake assessments completed for services
  • 36,012 appointments by phone or video
  • 5,394 visits to the Opiod Use Disorder Treatment (OUDT) program
 
In recent months, the Mental Health and Addictions Program also accelerated the launch of three new online tools, available free of charge, to support Nova Scotians:
  • Mindwell-U: As of May 13, 2,531 people registered and 2,033 enrolled in the 30-day challenge.
  • Therapy Assistance Online (TAO): 1,098 self-help sessions completed April 1-May 31.
  • I-CAN (Conquer Anxiety and Nervousness): 547 self-referrals since March 18.
 
For more information on the Mental Health and Addictions Program, please visit: http://www.nshealth.ca/mental-health-addictions 
 
Additional information about service reintroduction can be found here: www.nshealth.ca/servicereintroduction 
 
Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should always call 911. For non-emergency health advice from a registered nurse, please call 811. The provincial Mental Health Crisis Line also operates 24/7 at 1-888-429-8167 (toll free).
 
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Provincial media line: 1-844-483-3344