Final chance to fix health care
The people have spoken. Hopefully someone is listening. During the past two weeks, several hundred Cumberland County residents have come together to rally for local health care. Spurred on by Amherst physician Dr. Brian Ferguson, people came out in the hundreds at rallies in Springhill, Amherst, Pugwash and Parrsboro to let government know it has had enough of false promises and an apparent inaction when it comes to keeping emergency rooms open and ensuring the services the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre needs to maintain its regional status are protected.
Ferguson is well known for going to the mat for local health care. In the mid-1990s he waged a very public campaign that eventually led to regional status for the former Highland View hospital and the newer hospital in Upper Nappan.
There was a time when Cumberland regional was a crowning jewel of Nova Scotia health care. The former Cumberland Health Authority worked hard to build the hospital so it was a place doctors wanted to work. Recruiting new physicians, especially the specialists who provide obstetrics, surgery and anesthesia, was not an issue. And instead of watching patients cross the border for specialty services, many were getting those services right here at home.
Almost as soon as the new Nova Scotia Health Authority replaced the CHA the problems began at Cumberland regional and at rural hospitals in Springhill, Pugwash and Parrsboro. ER closures became a daily occurrence and specialists began their exodus from the regional site in Amherst.
Closed rural ERs have placed added pressure on the regional hospital’s ER and the shortage of physicians able or willing to work the ER has dwindled to the point that the regional hospital passed the crisis phase and entered a critical one several months ago.
For Ferguson, enough was enough and he publicly announced his departure unless things change. Considering he has more than 3,000 patients in his private practice, his departure would be an even larger crisis in health care.
Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey says he’s listening. Change is something that takes time. As much as the health-care system has deteriorated, we need to be prepared to give Delorey, his department and the NSHA time to make good on their pledge to repair the problem they pretty much created by failing to listen to those most impacted by their faults.
Hopefully, the minister is able to ease the pressure and hopefully all the stakeholders can work collaboratively to alleviate the strain. If they fail, we may reach the point of no return when it comes to fixing this mess and many of us will have to get used to hallway medicine or driving elsewhere for emergency and specialty services. That would make a sad day for health care even sadder.