Closing the Sackville hospital’s ER at 4 p.m. sends Dorchester woman on a medical odyssey

Helen Dyer

A 69-year-old Dorchester woman says she had quite an ordeal this fall after fracturing her right wrist in Sackville’s Waterfowl Park just as the town hospital’s emergency room was closing.

Helen Dyer says she slipped on a patch of ice on November 24th in a section of the park near the TransCanada highway.

“I fell and I felt my arm crack and I’ve got osteoporosis so I’m pretty much used to knowing when I’ve broken a bone,” she says.

Her husband helped her up and by the time they got back to their car in the Thrift Store parking lot, it was about five minutes to four.

“So, I said, ‘Dave, there’s no point going to the Sackville hospital because the emergency room will be closed,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to go try anyway,'” Dyer says.

But when they arrived at the hospital a few minutes later, the emergency room had closed for the day in keeping with Horizon’s policy of operating it only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., a practice that started on November 19th.

Since then, there have been no evening or overnight emergency services in Sackville.

On to Amherst

“Rather than drive to Moncton because I was in quite a bit of pain, we drove to Amherst,” Dyer says.

After a half-hour wait in the Amherst ER, Dyer was given pain killers and then anesthetized so that a doctor could straighten her arm.

“When I woke up, my arm was in a cast,” she says, adding that when the Amherst hospital phoned Steven Massoeurs, an orthopaedic surgeon in Moncton for advice on how to fit the cast, he asked to see her the next morning.

Dyer says she received excellent treatment for a torn knee a few years ago from Dr. Massoeurs at a day surgery clinic in Sackville, but he no longer practises here.

On to Moncton

Dyer says that she was kept waiting the next day in the Moncton ER for about 45 minutes until Dr. Massoeurs phoned down to ask where she was.

“He was clearly keeping an eye on me, which I was really thankful for, so I went up and again they put me out and changed the cast and put a firmer one on because it’s a fairly complicated fracture,” Dyer says.

Dr. Massoeurs booked her another appointment for the following week, but by the next morning, her fingers were so badly swollen that she went to the Sackville ER around noon where a doctor cut off the cast and with advice from another orthopaedic surgeon in Moncton, fitted a new one.

She says that when she kept her appointment with Dr. Massoeurs in Moncton the following week, he decided to fit another cast, her fourth, and now it’s a matter of waiting for her wrist fracture to heal.

Medical saga

“It’s been a bit of a saga,” Dyer says of her medical odyssey.

She believes that if the Sackville ER had been open on the day of her accident, she probably would have been given painkillers and sent directly to Moncton although there’s no certainty she would have been seen by an orthopaedic surgeon on the same day that she fractured her wrist.

She does find it troubling though that the Sackville ER is open for only eight hours a day with no emergency services in late afternoon, during the evening or overnight.

“I’m probably one of many people,” she says, “who are concerned about the fact that they have an ongoing condition like osteoporosis and need to feel safe and that if something happens, there’s good health care nearby.”

Dyer adds that government cost-cutting measures such as under-paying nurses and eliminating medical services will have long-term consequences in a town full of elderly people and university students who depend on Sackville’s hospital.

“I think it’s just a foolish way to chip away at the hospital service, a foolish way to save money,” she says.

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