For the ER in Pine Falls, what is the ‘new normal’?

Acting CEO Ron Van Denakker - 1
IERHA CEO, Ron Van Denakker

By Don Norman
In a letter addressed to Community Leaders, updating the status of the ER at the Pine Falls Hospital, Interlake Easter Regional Health Authority (IERHA) CEO, Ron Van Denakker said that he was pleased to announce “that we are in a position to welcome our Pine Falls physicians back to the health complex’s emergency department.” The letter goes on to list the myriad of security upgrades made to the facility so that it’s a safe environment for staff and patients.

It is good news. Creating a workspace where staff isn’t afraid is a very good thing. But the letter is very carefully worded. Too carefully worded. Take this paragraph from the letter for instance.

“Now, as physicians begin picking up shifts in the emergency department, we are working towards a new normal and it will take some time for us to get to a point where we have consistent coverage in the emergency department. I appreciate your continued patience and support.”

If the problem that the physicians had with working at the ER was to do with their personal safety, then why isn’t the problem solved? Van Denakker’s update rattles off an extensive, and frankly impressive list of security upgrades and new safety procedures. If that wasn’t enough to get the physicians back to working the ER, then what is it they want? Do they want more money? Danger pay, perhaps?

And I’m not crazy about the term “new normal.” What does that mean? Is the “new normal” a state of lowered expectations? The goal of “consistent coverage” is pretty vague too. How consistent? Once a week? Once a month?

I really think we should applaud what the IERHA has achieved in response to the crisis earlier this spring. They were proactive and they got things done. But I can’t help but feel in the dark. It is similar to the feeling I had when the “Code White” crisis happened. It’s a little patronizing. Like someone saying, “there, there… don’t worry your little head, will be fine.”

The ER schedule that is posted on the IERHA website is helpful I suppose, but in crisis situations, checking the internet might not be that convenient. And you can’t schedule a medical emergency.

So, to Van Denakker, good job on getting those safety and security upgrades done. But please let us know what the plan is. Please tell us, what is the “new normal”?