The emotions involved in opening Nova Scotia’s new emergency department are “not unlike those of parents celebrating the birth of a new baby,” deputy health minister Cheryl Doiron said Wednesday.

The $20.4-million “baby” at the Halifax Infirmary site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre was revealed with many major donors in attendance, including relatives of the late Charles Keating. The Dartmouth businessman’s family donated $2.1 million toward the facility, which was christened the Charles V. Keating Emergency and Trauma Centre.

“He made it his life’s work to give back to the people of this province,” son Gregg Keating said inside the new triage area, where his father’s name is now etched on the wall. “Some of his final words to me were ‘Gregg, keep giving, we need a better hospital.’ ”

 

Dr. Sam Campbell, chief of the QEII’s emergency department, said patients currently wait between six and eight hours for treatment on a busy day, but “we’re hoping that you’ll at least be seen within an hour” under the new streamlined system.

Premier Rodney MacDonald was there for the fanfare surrounding the opening, pointing out the Tory government dedicated $17 million for “one of the best health care teaching facilities in the country and the largest emergency health centre in Atlantic Canada.”

MacDonald said the specialized trauma rooms, extra ambulance bays and state-of-the-art equipment greatly enhance the QEII.

“It will increase privacy and comfort for patients, provide infectious disease control (and) improve working conditions,” he said.

But after the formal announcement he came under fire from reporters, who asked if he was politicizing a positive event during an election campaign.

“As premier of Nova Scotia, I was here to do the groundbreaking,” MacDonald said, adding this isn’t about garnering votes. “This is about patients. It’s about people.”

Capital Health spokesman Peter Graham said patients will start being transferred to the Charles V. Keating Emergency and Trauma Centre overnight June 23.