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Public education campaign

Sun Country Health Region is embarking on an education campaign to assist residents to use the emergency departments of local health centres and hospitals appropriately.

An advertising campaign including posters and brochures indicating the appropriate use of emergency departments will be introduced to communities in the Region during the first week of September.

“There is some misunderstanding among the public about the emergency departments in our hospitals and health centres,” says Marga Cugnet, Vice President of Primary and Integrated Health for Sun Country Health Region.

“People tend to equate emergency departments with the doctors’ clinics. They sometimes use the emergency department for non-urgent health matters like filling a prescription or checking out a cold,” she says.

Appropriate use is particularly important now that the highly infectious H1N1 virus is spreading among the Canadian population, she says. “We don’t want to see the virus spread when people visit our emergency departments.”

Dr. Alain Lenferna, Vice President, Medical for Sun Country Health Region, says all members of the public need to think about emergency departments differently than they have in the past.

“They need to stop and think before they use the Emergency Department,” he says.

“The most important point to understand is that no health facility in Sun Country Health Region is staffed with a physician,” he says. “We have no 24-hour laboratory or x-ray department service either.”

“All physicians in this Region are on standby. That means each time a doctor is called back to the emergency department, he or she is called away from a scheduled appointment at his/her clinic, or from home at night,” says Dr. Lenferna.

“We want to ensure that each time a doctor is called out to an emergency department that it is an actual emergency.”

Sun Country Health Region offers two steps for wise use of the emergency department:

  1. Stop and Think:

· What can I do for myself?

· Can I rest, place ice on an injury or use a similar remedy?

· Can I take a medication to reduce pain or fever?

· How urgent is this condition?

· If I go to the emergency department and get a prescription, will a local pharmacy be open at this time to fill it?

· If I go to the hospital or health centre, will I spread the flu or a cold virus?

· Will laboratory or x-ray staff be available?

  1. Act:

Call Healthline at 1-877-800-000 or online at If your health concern is urgent and all of the above steps indicate it is necessary to travel to the nearest emergency department, take a list of your medications, health care/insurance card and any written medical history for the physician. When you arrive, a nurse in the health centres/ hospital will assess your condition to decide if a physician is to be called in.


These two steps will help ensure that serious medical emergencies can get the immediate treatment they need.

Dr. Lenferna says that evidence of appropriate use of the emergency departments in a rural health region can be a positive recruitment factor for new physicians.

“Some doctors may not consider a position in a rural community because he/she knows he will look after patients all day in a clinic and then be called into an emergency department every night for nonurgent issues,” he says.

 “We need to utilize our physicians appropriately to help keep them here.”


Media: For more information, please call Joanne Helmer, Communications Coordinator, 842-8353.



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