Cape Breton residents protest diminishing health care in the region
On November 16 a group of Cape Breton residents, known as Capers 4 Healthcare, shut down the causeway for an hour to protest the diminishing health care in the region. With more than 150 people, they planned to protest in front the Minister of Health and Wellness’ office in Antigonish; but given the rough weather, the group was forced to turn back for safety reasons. The Minister, Randy Delorey, declined invitations to attend public events hosted by the group, resulting in direct action.
The protest was organized given the recent health care reforms proposed by Stephen McNeil, wherein hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford would be closed. The local medical community and health workers’ union were not consulted and were only given a few hours notice. With doctor shortages, long waits for procedures and disappearing specialties, the announcements can’t help but make the changes feel drastic and dangerous for the community.
Three months after this announcement, the premier and other members of government gathered to announce the move and replacement of facilities, wherein staff had all been made aware and were supportive. An undermining act adding salt to the wound for the people of Cape Breton.
The changes will enact the opening of new community health centres, with the teams of health care professionals working collaboratively. Many of the services offered will address the health concerns of the region such as mental heath, addictions, or diabetes; however, for emergencies patients will be redirected to the hospitals at Cape Breton Regional or Glace Bay. The plans are expected to begin taking effect within the next two years.
The demographics in Cape Breton and all across Nova Scotia are changing as more youth continue to move to cities or out of province for available work. In Antigonish we have a seen a hike in the elderly population and the opening of new senior communities or retirement homes. These changing demographics require the industry to change out of necessity, which makes sense; but if a region already suffers from shortages of health care professionals, one can’t help but wonder how changing the system of approach makes it effective.
The idea of the new services sounds very nice, but without consultation of current experts in the area, as well as a plan, such as a survey of what prospective new practitioners are seeking, the ideas seem loosely formed and lead to caution or worry. Family practitioners in Nova Scotia earn, on average, between $10 000 and $100 000 less than doctors in other provinces according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Not only is there no guarantee of those resources, but the government is eliminating existing services and making it harder to access services in the case of an emergency.
As a young person from Nova Scotia, this makes me concerned for my parents as they age, as well as the resources available for me. As I finish in the Education program at StFX this year, I could potentially end up in a rural area depending on job availability, if I choose to stay in the province. Knowing that resources may not be available to me in a crisis deters me from wanting to move, which presents the argument of how will the government prevent other resources in the community from leaving, or, how will they pull them in?
These action items need to be addressed and our current political representative is not doing their part to ensure peace of mind. In fact, our provincial government made a point to show how resources in the city take a higher priority than those in rural communities by consulting with their region. The proposed plans may sound nice, but until they can confirm many of the underlying issues, it is important for the community to stand up and speak. This protest was to voice concern, and it did not get the attention that it deserved, and instead echoed the theme of where attention is placed in our province.