Physician-led rally set for Sunday in Sydney Mines
Cape Breton physicians are voicing their concerns about the state of health care on the island.
The Cape Breton Medical Staff Association has organized a rally for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines.
A resolution passed April 10 by the association stating the concerns about the condition of health care included the names of more than 70 local physicians.
Two main areas of concern are the continued loss of services/ colleagues — psychiatry and multidisciplinary mental health services, infectious disease, geriatrics and primary care, to name some examples. The future of the Northside General Hospital and its emergency department is also a concern.
“I’ve been here since 1962 and the work that was done in the past 20 years to improve health care has gone down the drain in four years,” said Dr. Mahmood Naqvi. “We don’t do chest surgeries here, if you have a cancer in your lung you will be waiting here forever before you get to Halifax.”
Naqvi, who manages wound care at the regional hospital in Sydney, said with the loss of vascular surgery, patients who are being transported to Halifax for care often end up with amputations or worse.
“Every since the government changed, and they changed the health-care system into one district, we have more doctors leaving than ever before,” Naqvi said. “The only infectious disease specialist we had, he left a few months ago, and we have no one here to look after the MRSAs, VREs, all the so-called hospital-acquired superbugs.”
Sunday’s rally grew out of a concern for changes that were going to take place to the way physicians working in the Northside General Hospital’s emergency department were going to be compensated.
Dr. Margaret Fraser, who has a family practice, works in the emergency department at the regional hospital in Sydney and does operating room assists, said that issue has been temporarily resolved.
“But, we began discussing the wider issue of loss of services. The main concern really is the delay of care and the lack of care in Cape Breton due to loss of certain physicians services,” she said.
Fraser is concerned that people are dying, and more people will die.
“Our government keeps telling us we are overreacting, but our health care is in crisis and people are actually dying,” she said. “That man who died in the hallway in Halifax recently, that’s not an exception. That was a situation where someone spoke up, but for every person you hear about there are 100 that you don‘t.”
Fraser said along with the loss of vascular surgery services and thoracic surgery, there is a high concentration of people suffering from hepatitis C on the island.
“Once the patient moves into the latter stages of the disease, they will have to go somewhere else for treatment. Many don’t have the means to travel, and will have to let the disease take its course.”
Referring to when the Cape Breton Cancer Centre opened in 1995 in Sydney, Dr. Beth MacCormick, who has a family practice in Sydney Mines, said people could stay on the island for their treatment.
“Those were the days when doctors came to Cape Breton and they usually stayed,” she said. “We didn’t hear of ER closures and in those days we wouldn’t know what an orphan patient was. It’s really changed the last number of years.”
MacCormick, who has been practicing medicine for 35 years, said along with losing services, the loss of family doctors has impacted many people in the community.
“It’s happened so many times, it’s like an epidemic. We need to know why they aren’t staying,” she said. “The community knows things are not good, the doctors know it’s not good and I think we need to talk together and then talk to government.”
Greg Boone, director communications and public relations with the Nova Scotia Health Authority said there would be representatives with the Nova Scotia Health Authority at the rally to listen to the concerns of physicians and the public.
“These concerns will be shared with the NSHA leadership.”