Cumberland Health looks back at its accomplishments

‘The time for sour grapes is over’

Darrell Cole
Published on June 11, 2014
Cumberland Health Authority board chairman Bruce Saunders (left) speaks to board member Maureen Leahey and CEO Bruce Quigley after the organization’s final semi-annual meeting on Tuesday. The province is reducing the number of health authorities and the CHA’s board of directors will effectively cease to exist at the end of June.
Darrell Cole -

The chairman of the Cumberland Health Authority says the organization had many accomplishments over the last 13 years. Its board of directors will cease to exist at the end of the month.

AMHERST – The days for fighting the government’s plan to reduce the number of district health authorities is over, says the chairman of the Cumberland Health Authority.

Speaking at the organization’s final semi-annual meeting, Bruce Saunders applauded the achievements the CHA has made since 2001 and suggested it’s time to work with government to create the best system possible for all residents.

“The time for crying sour grapes is over,” said Saunders. “The government has been working on implementing a new model and they’re being very careful in how they go about doing that. We, as a community, need to be as helpful and respectful of the process moving forward.”

Saying that, Saunders said, he is urging officials with Health and Wellness to proceed with caution and to avoid making the mistakes that occurred in the mid-1990s when the province moved to regional health boards that “had a significant negative impact on health care in Cumberland County.”

Looking back at more than 13 years of achievements, Saunders said the health authority has a lot to be proud of and its accomplishments in the field of primary medicine have made it a leader across the country.

When the CHA was formed, there were just eight specialists working at the former Highland View Regional Hospital with locums providing many of the other services, or patients being referred out of the province or to Truro or Halifax.

At present, there are 22 physician specialists, while Saunders said there has been an 86 per cent reduction in the number of county residents receiving day surgery in New Brunswick over the last decade.

Saunders said there has also been a significant reduction in the number of in-hospital time Cumberland County patients were spending at Colchester Regional in Truro, there was a 27.8 per cent reduction in acute inpatient services obtained in New Brunswick since 2002-03 while there has been a jump of 59.5 per cent in the number of New Brunswick residents having day surgery at the Cumberland regional hospital.

Prior to 2001, Saunders said, 40 per cent of Cumberland County mothers were going elsewhere to deliver their babies. Today, 85 per cent are having their children delivered at the regional hospital.

Saunders said the authority is a leader in the development of Made in Cumberland solutions to health-care problems. The South Cumberland Rural Practice Network and the North Cumberland Rural Practice Network laid the framework for the successful development later of collaborative emergency centres in Parrsboro, Pugwash and Springhill.

“The CHA has been recognized as a national leader in the delivery of care in this innovative manner,” Saunders said. “Saskatchewan’s minister of health along with other health care officials visited Springhill and Parrsboro to tour the CEC. Saskatchewan subsequently established a CEC in that province as did Prince Edward Island.”

In those centres, physicians and nurse practitioners work together collaboratively with EHS paramedics and other primary care providers.

Other success stories included the development of the Cumberland Health Care Career Bursary Program – which was the first of its kind in the province, the hiring of a cancer navigator in 2009, renovations and the redevelopment of the Bayview Memorial Health Care Centre in Advocate Harbour, the establishment of a cultural diversity and social inclusion committee and the successful Growing Care Campaign that developed the third operating theatre at the regional hospital.

“When the hospital was originally built, it was felt there were not enough surgeries being done to warrant the additional expense. Thanks to positive recruitment and vastly improved patient confidence in local health care provision, the third OR was necessary,” Saunders said.

The CHA, he said, was one of the first to recruit physicians through the Clinician Assessment for Practice Program that allowed foreign-trained physicians the ability to enter medical practice in Nova Scotia without the need for additional training in Canada.

The authority has also worked with the province to replace the aging North Cumberland Memorial Hospital with a new building adjacent to the East Cumberland Lodge.

The building has been specifically designed to house the CEC and other health programs provided in the community.

The schematic drawings have been shared with Health and Wellness and decisions on funding are pending.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell