Health Minister Leo Glavine says the transition to one health authority for the province will be orderly and without chaos.
AMHERST – Contrary to what Nova Scotia’s former health minister believes, Leo Glavine says reducing the number of district health authorities in the province is not going to result in chaos.
The Liberal health minister was in Cumberland County on Wednesday to meet with health-care stakeholders in Springhill and at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Upper Nappan.
The visit was the sixth of nine stops Glavine is making across the province, who called a listening and learning opportunity.
“This will be for the most part a very thoughtful and evolutionary approach to where we want to arrive a number of years down the road,” Glavine said. “There will be no disruptions to the system. I will not be a minister that manages chaos. I will be a minister that directs thoughtful planning and executes on the strengths we have available in Amherst, Yarmouth, Bridgewater and elsewhere. That’s my approach to change.”
Glavine said he hopes to continue working on the recommendations of the Ernst Young report the previous government completed. That study called for increased sharing of services and implementation of four management zones across the province.
The minister said the process is designed to strengthen health care delivery to make it available in every part of the province when it’s needed by Nova Scotians. He also knows it’s going to take time to effect proper change.
“I am not interested in the political cycle of four years. Some of the things our government does I will not be in office when they bear the greatest dividends,” Glavine said. “This is looking over a 10-year period. Instead of looking at pieces of the system we have to look at everything from cradle to grave and what’s best for Nova Scotians. Health reform has done little patches. I’m more interested in what’s the big picture.”
Earlier this week Dave Wilson, who was the NDP’s health minister before last October’s election, said the transition to one board will result in chaos for health-care workers and for patients.
“I predict there’s going to be chaos in the health-care field,” Wilson said on Tuesday. “All the resources and energy is going to be put into what does a superboard look like when we need people in health care trying to figure out the many other issues that remain.”
Wilson said any savings will be overcome by massive settlements resulting from the elimination of CEOs and vice-presidents.
“When I was minister I talked to people in other provinces who went to superboards, like in Alberta and New Brunswick. There were no savings. In fact, it cost millions and severely impacted frontline health-care services,” Wilson said. “What the government is proposing is not going to work in Nova Scotia any better than it did in those jurisdictions. We cannot afford to repeat those mistakes.”
Glavine knows the first round of regionalization in the mid-1990s did not go well in Nova Scotia. He said it was done in midst of a huge provincial debt, with little or no consultation and was implemented too fast.
The latest restructuring of health, he said, will be much more reasoned and thoughtful and should not result in the loss of programs and services, or input, from any of the regions of Nova Scotia.
“This time the goal is some small administrative savings, but we’re working to have attrition look after most of that,” Glavine said. “We’re at a time where there is a huge retirement factor available to us that wasn’t available during the first version. This time we want to see the highest quality of health services spread through each of the management zones.”
The zones, he said, will be much more responsive to the needs of individual communities and hospitals and will make sure essential health services are available closer to home.
“The whole approach will be designed to utilize to the greatest extent the human resources and the physical facilities that are available in each of the districts,” Glavine said. “We have to take the paramedics, Cancer Care Nova Scotia and other models that are working across the province and do the same with other things like orthopedics and surgeries.”
Glavine said there is no reason why some orthopedic procedures can’t be done in Cumberland County, Truro or New Glasgow, instead of sending everyone to the QEII Health Sciences Centre. He said he would like to see some oncologist services available to patients in this part of the province.
“It’s also important we do more with our senior population in our local community by utilizing our human resources and extend their work into our communities,” Glavine said. “That’s one of our primary goals. People have told us the more we can do locally better.”
He said the collaborative centres, such as those in Springhill, Pugwash and Parrsboro, are wonderful for patient care and will be a significant recruitment tool. He said they will figure prominently under the new system. Glavine also suggested the model of restorative care in Springhill is something that can be copied elsewhere.