A former Sackville Town Councillor says he plans to file a complaint with the Horizon Health Network after a fruitless six-hour wait for emergency room treatment last Friday at Sackville Memorial Hospital.
“I checked in at noon at the hospital because I had severe bleeding,” said 83-year-old Virgil Hammock, who explained that he suffers from diverticulitis, a bowel inflammation.
“It produces a lot of bleeding and it had been going on for a couple of days,” he says.
“This particular ailment tends to go away on its own, but you lose a lot of blood and get dehydrated,” he adds. “You could also have serious side effects like a ruptured colon or something like that.”
Hammock says he was seen fairly soon by a triage nurse and told it wouldn’t be long before the ER doctor would take a look.
“Lo and behold, five hours later I’m still sitting there with a friend and a nurse comes in and says, ‘Oh, the doctor’s gone home, we’re closed and you’ll have to go someplace else or come back tomorrow,'” he says.
“My jaw hit the floor, it was so appalling. It has to be that once you’re checked in and triaged that they have to take care of you.”
Hammock says he knew that the hospital’s ER has been operating on reduced hours since November. It’s now open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
But he adds he didn’t realize that patients can still be refused treatment and sent away even though they arrived hours before closing time and had been entered into the system.
“It’s just not right. Once you get into the hospital, are triaged, I think they need to be able to see you,” he says. “I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
A spokesman for Horizon Health confirms that although ER staff are paid to work until 6 p.m. a couple of hours after closing time, it may not always be possible for them to see every patient who is waiting that day.
Kris McDavid also says Horizon is committed to restoring 24-hour emergency room service in Sackville once it can recruit the necessary staff.
But Hammock says it’s not acceptable to run an emergency service that operates on bankers’ hours.
He adds that about a half dozen other people including a couple of students and some elderly patients were also still waiting Friday when the ER closed for the day.
“I want to make it very clear that I’m not worried about myself personally, I can take care of myself,” he says.
“I’m just worried about the community and the other people who were still waiting.”
Hammock served for 13-years on town council and was elected in 2004 to a four-year-term on the South East Regional Health Authority — a forerunner to the Horizon Health Network.
“The Sackville hospital was built by the community and it was taken over by the health authority,” he says.
“It was a full-service hospital and it was always meant to be that way.”
To read Horizon’s latest news release on reduced hours at the Sackville ER, click here.
For an earlier story about the effects of closing the Sackville ER at 4 p.m., click here.