Health care big is­sue in cam­paign

Cape Breton Post - - Province -

For Janet Glaze­brook, hav­ing to beg a doc­tor to test her sis­ter for hip frac­tures af­ter wait­ing hours in a crowded emer­gency room helped de­ter­mine her vote in Nova Scotia’s May 30 elec­tion.

“It (health care) is com­pletely com­pro­mised. There are not enough doc­tors,” she said in re­cent a tele­phone in­ter­view.

The Hal­i­fax res­i­dent says she “had to beg” a physi­cian at the Dart­mouth Gen­eral Hospi­tal late last month to ad­mit her sis­ter - who has mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and epilepsy - for tests that would later show she’d frac­tured her hip in two spots and needed surgery, af­ter she’d waited un­seen in a room for al­most six hours.

“I don’t be­lieve a thing the Liberals say at this point,” she said, de­spite be­ing told of the party’s plan for 48 new beds and eight new op­er­at­ing rooms at Dart­mouth Gen­eral.

Sim­i­lar sto­ries around the prov­ince are caus­ing some worries for the in­cum­bent party in the prov­ince’s two-week old cam­paign, say politi­cal ob­servers. David John­son, a politi­cal sci­en­tist at Cape Breton Univer­sity, said Stephen McNeil’s govern­ment is pay­ing a price for fail­ing to keep 2013 elec­tion prom­ises such as en­sur­ing all cit­i­zens have ac­cess to fam­ily physi­cians, and for over­crowd­ing and long wait times.

“It’s one thing to say things are get­ting bet­ter and it’s a pol­icy pri­or­ity, it’s an­other thing to see the lived ex­pe­ri­ence of peo­ple deal­ing with health care,” he said in an in­ter­view.

The politi­cal sci­en­tist said protests and out­bursts at events in the cam­paign’s first week un­der­mined the party’s core mes­sage that it has been mak­ing tough choices but is poised to im­prove the sys­tem if re-elected to a sec­ond term.

When McNeil an­nounced he’d spend $78 mil­lion over the next four years on col­lab­o­ra­tive clin­ics and would hire 50 more doc­tors a year, a frus­trated 68-year-old re­tiree ar­rived at the event to vent his frus­tra­tion over his wife’s two-year wait for a fam­ily doc­tor.

More than 500 doc­tors and cit­i­zens ral­lied in North Syd­ney last Sun­day over a wide range of health care is­sues in the Cape Breton area.

Just prior to the cam­paign, The Cana­dian Press re­ported on the story of how Kim D’Arcy waited with her 68-year-old hus­band for al­most seven hours in a Hal­i­fax ER cor­ri­dor as he lay dy­ing from pan­cre­atic cancer.

The Liberals say the prob­lems are be­ing ad­dressed.

Though spe­cific fig­ures weren’t un­veiled, the party has vowed to de­mol­ish the ven­er­a­ble Cen­ten­nial Build­ing of the Vic­to­ria Gen­eral hospi­tal - where flood­ing has dis­rupted surg­eries and pipes were fouled by Le­gion­naires dis­ease - af­ter ren­o­vat­ing other health fa­cil­i­ties in Hal­i­fax.

McNeil pub­lished an open let­ter to the Cape Breton doc­tors, re­peat­ing ear­lier as­sur­ances the North­side hospi­tal wouldn’t be closed and ER physi­cian pay won’t change, and promis­ing con­sul­ta­tion with doc­tors would im­prove.

“We’ve made a lot of change on how we de­liv­ered health care in the prov­ince. The vast ma­jor­ity of it has been re­ceived very well but we’ve heard and I’ve heard that Doc­tors Nova Scotia wasn’t con­sulted enough,” McNeil said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence a day later.

He also de­fended his govern­ment’s cre­ation of a sin­gle health au­thor­ity, say­ing it’s al­low­ing the prov­ince to in­vest in front-line care such as dial­y­sis units in Glace Bay, Bridge­wa­ter, Digby, Kentville, Hal­i­fax and Dart­mouth.

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