‘Do not stop fight­ing’

Shel­burne County res­i­dents take their health-care frus­tra­tions to the street

South Shore Breaker - - Homes - KATHY JOHN­SON TRI-COUNTY VAN­GUARD kathy.john­son@bel­laliant.net

Hun­dreds of Shel­burne County res­i­dents took to the streets for the Peo­ple over Pol­i­tics march and rally to protest the cur­rent health- care cri­sis on Satur­day, Sept. 22.

Start­ing at the Loy­al­ist Plaza (Wood­work­ers Home Fur­ni­ture) on Wa­ter Street in Shel­burne, par­tic­i­pants were joined along the route as they marched to the Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on King Street, where oth­ers were wait­ing to show their sup­port.

Shel­burne Mayor Karen Mat­tatall, Queens-shel­burne MLA Kim Masland, Shel­burne fire Chief Dar­rell Locke and Roger Tay­lor, coun­cil­lor for the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Shel­burne, took the podium, all echo­ing the same mes­sage: the health-care sys­tem is in cri­sis for ru­ral Nova Sco­tia and it needs to be fixed.

“The prov­ince of Nova Sco­tia through the NSHA (Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity) has al­lowed the state of health care for all Nova Sco­tians, and par­tic­u­larly Shel­burne County and other ru­ral ar­eas, to de­volve to a de­plorable state,” said Mat­tatall. “All par­ties have had a hand over the years in the demise of the sys­tem. How­ever, it’s time to stop blam­ing the peo­ple in the past and fix it now. Peo­ple’s lives are in jeop­ardy.”

Mat­tatall, as well as other speak­ers, called on the prov­ince to make health care the top of their pri­or­ity list.

“Spend­ing mil­lions and mil­lions of dol­lars on a bloated bu­reau­cracy in­stead of front­line ser­vices is not ad­dress­ing our needs,” she said. “We need the ER 24-7 at Rose­way Hos­pi­tal and we shouldn’t set­tle on that as a so­lu­tion as it doesn’t pro­vide ev­ery­one with a fam­ily doc­tor, it won’t re­duce wait times, it won’t al­low us ac­cess to ser­vices lo­cally that sup­port our de­mo­graphic which is grow­ing, and it doesn’t rec­og­nize our ge­og­ra­phy. It won’t pre­vent the hor­ror sto­ries we hear of peo­ple trav­el­ling long dis­tances to ac­cess ser­vices that should be avail­able right here in our own com­mu­nity.”

Mat­tatall said up un­til the mid-1990s, Nova Sco­tia had a sys­tem that worked quite well.

“The de­ci­sion-mak­ing was made lo­cally, not by a bu­reau­cratic or­ga­ni­za­tion that we have no con­nec­tion with. At that time, the prov­ince felt be­cause the health-care bud­get was con­sum­ing 25 per cent of the prov­ince’s to­tal bud­get. It was un­sus­tain­able, so they hired a con­sul­tant and the con­sul­tant de­ter­mined too many doc­tors and too many hos­pi­tals and that’s how they were go­ing to re­duce the cost,” Mat­tatall said. “How­ever, 30 years later, it’s con­sum­ing 50 per cent of Nova Sco­tia’s to­tal bud­get and we cer­tainly in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia are see­ing about 25 per cent of the ser­vices we saw then. Ru­ral Nova Sco­tians have been the vic­tims. We’ve watched a 52-bed fa­cil­ity (Rose­way Hos­pi­tal) erode to very min­i­mal ser­vices to­day.”

Masland told those gath­ered that hav­ing this many peo­ple come out to sup­port Rose­way Hos­pi­tal ac­cess and de­liv­ery sends a strong mes­sage to pro­vin­cial Health and Well­ness Min­is­ter Randy Delorey.

“This is a cri­sis and it’s a cri­sis our gov­ern­ment is not ad- mit­ting to,” said Masland. “Af­ter two hos­pi­tal clo­sures in Cape Bre­ton, my fear is this gov­ern­ment is com­ing for us next. I’m not say­ing this to add to your fear. I’m say­ing this be­cause I’m wor­ried.

“In ques­tion pe­riod, I asked Randy Delorey sev­eral times to guar­an­tee to me as long as he was min­is­ter of heath, this hos­pi­tal would re­main an open, full-ser­vice hos­pi­tal. I asked for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ an­swer. He said a lot of words in re­ply but none of them were yes,” she said, adding she has also asked the premier the same ques­tion. “He didn’t say yes ei­ther, in­stead he scolded me for be­ing so bold that such a young politi­cian as my­self would choose so early in my ca­reer to in­sult a min­is­ter.”

Masland said she has heard from nu­mer­ous con­stituents with health- care con­cerns.

“I lis­tened to the fear in a young parent’s voice when they ar­rived at the lo­cal ER with their con­vuls­ing child to be told it’s closed and they need to call 911. I’ve lis­tened to the con­cern of a can­cer pa­tient who re­quires ac­cess to the ER within that golden hour and fears the ER might be closed. I have shared

fears of an 18-year-old boy who sat in the ER for hours des­per­ately reach­ing out for men­tal health treat­ment, only to leave be­cause he couldn’t bear to have com­mu­nity mem­bers watch­ing him cry,” she said. “I’ve heard the frus­tra­tion of a young lady who was suf­fer­ing from some­thing as sim­ple as a blad­der in­fec­tion on a Fri­day and was told by her physi­cian she would need to travel to Yar­mouth or Liver­pool to have a uri­nal­y­sis done be­cause the lab was closed. I’ve lis­tened to young par­ents who strug­gle to make ends meet but are forced to take time off work and travel and sit in an ER for an en­tire day with a sick child, all be­cause they don’t have a fam­ily doc­tor at home. Se­nior cit­i­zens have said they are giv­ing up be­cause they can’t bear to travel for dial­y­sis or sit in an ER to have a sim­ple pre­scrip­tion re­filled.”

Masland spoke about her 84-year-old grand­mother and about how she laid on an ER gur­ney for five days in a small ex­am­in­ing room with no bath­room fa­cil­i­ties and an­other in­fec­tious pa­tient.

“Nurses were walk­ing in fully gowned and masked while my grand­mother lay there to­tally ex­posed. Some of her last words to me were, ‘My dear I’m too sick to be home but I’m too sick to be here,’” she said. “She died eight days later. I will never for­give the sys­tem that failed her. I will never for­get the nurses and doc­tors who tried so hard to make things bet­ter for her, but the gov­ern­ment was ask­ing them to do the im­pos­si­ble. She de­served bet­ter and so do all of you … My mes­sage to you is do not stop fight­ing.”

Locke said Delorey “doesn’t have a sweet clue and he doesn’t want to know.”

“He wants us to qui­etly go away. The min­is­ter of health wants ev­ery­one to be­lieve the EHS sys­tem is a good sub­sti­tute for the ER. EHS are a won­der­ful group of peo­ple who do an ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous job. How­ever, right now, to­day in Shel­burne, there’s one am­bu­lance on duty. As soon as some­body needs it, that am­bu­lance is away from the area, so an­other am­bu­lance will get shifted close to this area. That could be Exit 30 in Barrington. It could be sit­ting in Sable River cov­er­ing Liver­pool and Shel­burne and right to Barrington,” he said, adding there are times that am­bu­lances are “not read­ily avail­able,” and at times when that hap­pens there are vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers qual­i­fied as first re­spon­ders.

“In the ab­sence of an am­bu­lance, we will come. We do the best we can with our level of train­ing,” said the fire chief. “We do not and can­not trans­port pa­tients any­where so our level of care to you is go­ing to be in your kitchen, your bed­room, your liv­ing room, wher­ever we might find you.”

Tay­lor said when he first started rais­ing con­cerns about health care about 10 years ago, “I felt like the lone wolf, but now health care is the num­ber- one pri­or­ity of the Fed­er­a­tion of

Nova Sco­tia Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, so it’s just not us. We can’t let the gov­ern­ment get away with this. Let’s keep up the fight.”

A provincewide rally to bring at­ten­tion to the health- care cri­sis is slated to be held in com­mu­ni­ties across Nova Sco­tia on Oct. 13.

Kathy John­son

Shel­burne County res­i­dents say it is con­cern­ing to of­ten have to leave their county to ac­cess emer­gency health- care ser­vices due to clo­sures of the emer­gency depart­ment at Rose­way Hos­pi­tal.

Kathy John­son

Peo­ple marched in the streets, car­ry­ing signs aimed at send­ing mes­sages that the cur­rent health- care sit­u­a­tion is un­ac­cept­able.

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