Fi­nal chance to fix health care

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY -

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.

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