Healthy Halifax Winter/Spring 2019: Spotlight on Halifax

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Emergency personnel work together during a surge

Flu season, weather events and major accidents can bring a flood of patients to the Halifax Regional Emergency Care Center (ECC), often resulting in long waits for patients. At those times, ECC personnel are working hard behind the scenes to ensure everyone receives needed care.

Halifax Regional’s ECC sees an average of around 90 patients per day. When that level rises above 110, resources are stressed and the department’s “surge plan” may be activated. There are five levels to the plan, each aimed at matching staff and other resources to the patient volume.

“We experienced a major surge in the ECC in March of 2015 with the Amtrak Carolinian incident,” comments Barbara Moore, RN, an administrative director and director of nursing at the ECC. “Forty passengers from the train were seen that day, but we admitted only two. The ECC frequently experiences smaller surges, but they are generally cleared by late evening.”

In 2018, department heads and other key staff at Halifax Regional completed work on an organization-wide plan for dealing with higher-than-normal patient volumes and surges. When the ECC goes on surge, a command center is established and all affected departments work in concert to move patients through the system quickly and efficiently. Surge allows staff, even nurses working in nonclinical positions, and additional resources to be moved to where they are most needed. Rapid treatment teams made up of an advanced practitioner and a nurse are sometimes assigned to move noncritical cases through the system faster. “Surge affects all of us,” says Michael Joyner, RN, an administrative director and director of nursing at the ECC.

“Everyone, from the lab to environmental services to the doctors and nurses, is tightly focused on taking care of patients. So it is critical that we are all communicating and working together.”



Call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency. The Emergency Care Center is located on the first floor of Halifax Regional.

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