N.S. po­lit­i­cal lead­ers fo­cus on health care in elec­tion’s fi­nal days

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY KEITH DOUCETTE

Nova Sco­tia’s Tories and NDP have pin­pointed health care as the Lib­er­als’ Achilles heel as the elec­tion cam­paign en­ters its fi­nal days, hop­ing to con­vince vot­ers it is in cri­sis and they can fix it.

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives planned to hold a rally on health care in South Ber­wick, N.S., Wed­nes­day, while the NDP promised to work to fix pri­mary care prob­lems by con­sult­ing with doc­tors, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and nurses.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, Tory Leader Jamie Bail­lie blamed the in­cum­bent Lib­er­als for a string of health care prob­lems, from doc­tor short­ages to emer­gency room clo­sures and a lack of men­tal health ser­vices.

Bail­lie ad­mit­ted the sys­tem has strug­gled for years, and a string of gov­ern­ments seemed un­able to fix per­sis­tent prob­lems. But he then quickly brought the blame back to the Lib­er­als.

“I’ve heard (Premier) Stephen McNeil say this prob­lem goes back a long way. That’s true but it’s also a cop-out,’’ said Bail­lie.

“We can take ac­tion now to make health care bet­ter. To just say this has been a prob­lem for a long time is to ac­tu­ally refuse to ac­knowl­edge the cri­sis that ex­ists.’’

McNeil said Wed­nes­day Bail­lie is try­ing to “scare peo­ple.’’

“We know there are chal­lenges in cer­tain parts of the com­mu­ni­ties ... and we are putting out pos­i­tive so­lu­tions that

Nova Sco­tians are look­ing for,’’ he said while on a cam­paign stop in Cape Bre­ton.

Bail­lie said the first step in fix­ing the sys­tem’s prob­lems is re­al­iz­ing how acute they are in ar­eas such as men­tal health — some­thing he said the Lib­er­als haven’t done.

He said a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment elected in next Tues­day’s elec­tion would spend $39.7 mil­lion over four years to bol­ster men­tal health ser­vices.

The money would be used to hire more men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to bring down wait lists and pro­vide men­tal health train­ing in all schools as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure. The

Tory plan also in­cludes $8 mil­lion over four years to build four cri­sis cen­tres.

“We will work with ... doc­tors and coun­sel­lors and psy­chi­a­trists to iden­tify the best place to put them,’’ Bail­lie said. “That is the right way to go for­ward.’’

NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill an­nounced Wed­nes­day that the party would ac­cept the rec­om­men­da­tions in a re­cent po­si­tion paper on pri­mary care by Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia and would work with doc­tors on a new pay model for physi­cians and to de­velop a doc­tor re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion strat­egy.

In an in­ter­view, Bur­rill said health care is the num­ber one is­sue he hears on peo­ple’s doorsteps.

He said his party be­lieves im­prove­ments can be made by set­ting pri­or­i­ties, work­ing with pro­fes­sion­als to iden­tify needs, and then prop­erly fund­ing those ar­eas.

“These three things in my own judg­ment have been miss­ing and they are three things that we can bring,’’ Bur­rill said.

McNeil stressed that his gov­ern­ment’s cre­ation of a sin­gle health author­ity would al­low for more in­vest­ments in front-line care, in­clud­ing men­tal health. Ear­lier in the cam­paign, the Lib­er­als promised $34 mil­lion over four years to hire 35 new men­tal health clin­i­cians for com­mu­ni­ties and for schools across the prov­ince.

McNeil ad­mit­ted that prom­ises of bet­ter days ahead mean lit­tle to peo­ple af­fected by the sys­tem’s short­com­ings now.

“Those who don’t have a physi­cian are feel­ing the sys­tem needs in­stant im­prove­ment,’’ he said. “But one thing we know as a prov­ince is short-term fixes don’t solve the prob­lem. This needs to be a long-term, thought­ful strat­egy to make sure that we get to a sys­tem that’s ac­tu­ally sus­tain­able.’’




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