LIBERALS COME TO CAPE BRETON
Liberal leader announces new money for expanded home care
McNeil announces plans to expand caregiver benefit program.
It’s clear that Cape Breton health-care providers feel they aren’t being listened to and a Liberal government will work with them to address challenges facing the health system, Premier Stephen McNeil says.
McNeil brought the Liberals re-election bid to Sydney on Wednesday where he announced plans to expand the province’s caregiver benefit program but was dogged by questions about the state of local health care.
McNeil’s visit to Sydney came just days after hundreds of concerned residents packed a doctor-led rally on health care, doctor shortages and the future operation of the Northside General Hospital emergency department.
One of the complaints of local doctors was that with the move to a provincewide health authority the voice of local providers has been muted.
“We’ve heard health-care providers don’t feel they’ve been heard, listened to, we’ve made it very clear to them and to Doctors Nova Scotia that we’re prepared to work with them to continue to answer the challenges facing Nova Scotians,” McNeil said in a scrum with reporters.
“Obviously we’ve heard from Doctors Nova Scotia and doctors in this community that they haven’t felt they were a part of
the last two-and-a-half years and being a big enough part of the planning … I think it’s important that we hear the local voice.”
McNeil said he met with representatives of Doctors Nova Scotia last week. He said some “inaccurate information” has been circulating, including that the Northside general emergency department will close and also that doctors’ pay would be reduced, both of which he denied.
He said doctors’ input is needed in how to best deliver services and the province is investing
in health care including nurse practitioners and collaborative care.
“We don’t need to spend more money on administration, we need to make sure we’re listening to frontline health-care workers to ensure that we have appropriate health-care teams in place,” McNeil said.
When asked whether he would commit to taking part in a leaders debate in Cape Breton on health care, McNeil said a number of debates have already been scheduled in which he will take part.
“I’m looking forward to having those debates and then I’m doing what I’ve been doing all along, going out and talking to Nova Scotians, here in Cape Breton I’ll be doing the same thing,” McNeil said.
McNeil said a message coming out of the rally transmitted to him by Health Minister Leo Glavine was that people did not want the issue to be politicized, something he accused PC Leader Jamie Baillie of doing. The Tories issued a news release Wednesday saying the premier has failed to respond to the debate invitation.
While in Sydney, McNeil announced that, if re-elected, the Liberal government will expand the eligibility for the caregiver benefit program, nearly doubling the number of people who can receive help to care for a loved one.
The program provides caregivers with $4,800 in annual benefits. Under the Liberal campaign promise about 1,600 additional people could qualify at a cost of $25 million over four years. The expansion would specifically allow people caring for loved ones with lower levels of dementia and mental illness to be eligible.
This year, 400 caregivers for people with lower levels of dementia would become eligible. Those caring for people with mental illness would be able to apply in 2018.
“I am one of those very people he’s talking about,” said Mel Bryden, president of the Reserve Mines Seniors and Pensioners. “I am actually chronically ill, but I don’t look it. I am one of the people that, hopefully, when he made this announcement (Wednesday), that I’ll be able to stay in my home and have dignity, which is all any of us want.”
McNeil said the Liberals would spend $750,000 a year for three years beginning in 201819 to help doctors use video to consult with patients.
Premier Stephen McNeil brought his Liberal government’s re-election bid to the New Dawn Centre for Society Innovation in Sydney Wednesday, where he made a home-care funding announcement.