© Dave Mathieson - Amherst News
Cumberland Health Authority board chairman Bruce Saunders (left) and CHA director of public relations Ann Keddy speak to county council during Wednesday's meeting of council.
UPPER NAPPAN - If a provincial election is called, the Cumberland Health Authority is asking the county to man the barricades in defence of their local health authority.
"One of the political parties a week ago said they would save $60 million by eliminating administration costs in the health authorities," said Bruce Saunders, Cumberland Health Authority board chairman during Wednesday's meeting of county council.
Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said reducing the number of health districts in Nova Scotia from 10 to three would save $60 million per year, saying the money would be better used for front-line health care services.
Liberal leader Stephen McNeil has also proposed the province consolidate health care authorities in the province.
"They want to consolidate as many services as possible within the health care structure," said Saunders. "The plan is a detrimental to the community."
Saunders pointed to several successes of the local health authority.
"The collaborative emergency centre, which started here in Cumberland County, in Parrsboro, and then Springhill and Pugwash, is now being looked at nationally. It's been copied in P.E.I and Saskatchewan," said Saunders.
Also, in 2001, there were eight specialists practicing in Cumberland County, today there are 22 fulltime specialists.
"That did not happen by chance," said Saunders. "That happened because of a very, very strong administrative staff. These people knew how to recruit to these localities and they did one hell of a job of it.
"We have a full compliment of nurses, we have a full compliment of medical staff and that would not have happened under a regional or centralized plan," added Saunders.
He said changes over the last decade has provided shortened waiting times for patients, provided 90 per cent of Cumberland County patients with local surgical services, and helped stabilize the outflow of patients while the inflow has increased.
"I'm afraid if we go back to the old game plan we will regress back to 2001."
Saunders said that current administration costs in the District Health Authorities budget makes up only 5 per cent of the entire budget, lower than the national average.
"Today, the word administration is almost being vilified," added Saunders. "It's being looked at as a shameful waste of money but we're showing evidence that these people are good at what they do and they've actually saved the health authority over the years.
"We shouldn't be chucking them under the bus. They're worth their weight in gold."
Saunders fears managers will take the brunt of any proposed cuts.
"I'm talking about managers of different services, like the x-ray departments and the nursing departments. I'm talking about boots-on-the-ground people," said Saunders.
"If you're going to knock $60 million off the administrative costs you're going to have to get rid of these people too."
Saunders finished by asking council to stand up for their health authority.
"We have a rising star in the healthcare industry right here in Cumberland County," said Saunders. "We've gone through a lot in the last 10 years and I'd hate to see it go back.
"I would encourage you to speak up as much as you can as we go into an election."