AMHERST – Continued emergency room closures in Cumberland County and other rural communities need not happen, says the leader of the provincial NDP.
Gary Burrill was in Cumberland North and Cumberland South on Monday to meet with party supporters as well as Wentworth residents who are concerned with continued clear-cutting in the Wentworth Valley.
“The conversations I’ve had with people have shifted and the big shift is the health care crisis is now front and centre,” Burrill told The Citizen-Record on Monday. “During the election it was a significant issue, but not a singular one. When I visit with people now and ask them what’s the biggest issue for us to emphasize the answer is doctors, emergency rooms and nursing home bed.”
Instead of listing to Nova Scotians and taking real action on the health care file, Burrill said the government has adopted an arrogant approach that’s so focused on budget surpluses that Nova Scotians, especially those in rural communities like Springhill, Parrsboro and Pugwash, are suffering while thousands more can’t even get access to a family physician.
“This government’s single focus is delivering budget surpluses. It has led them to fail to make the investments that are required,” he said. “It would’ve been wise to come out of the election to say ‘yes, we were very focused on the budget, but can see where this has left some places requiring investments and adjustments that we’re now going to make.’ Instead what they said is this is the right road and it was sustained in the election. Now instead of having their foot to the floor on the budget they’re going to have it through the mat.”
The result, Burrill said, is an intensifying health care crisis that’s going to get much worse unless the government admits there’s a crisis and does something about it.
Burrill said the present hospital system, with a single health authority, is breaking down. The New Democrats were against a reduction in the number of health authorities going into the 2013 election when the McNeil Liberals were first elected.
The Liberals won that election and have reduced the number of district health authorities to a single provincewide health authority.
“It’s not a province that’s unsolvable but it’s something that has to be focused on. The Liberals spent a lot of time focusing on creating that one super-centralized health board and while they had all the best minds in the province focused on that all these other pots in the health care system have boiled over,” Burrill said. “They need to be willing to make investments in things like doctor availability and emergency rooms. They don’t want to make the investment to keep those emergency rooms open because it would jeopardize their ability to balance the budget. In our view it’s a core mistake.”
Burrill said a balanced budget is important, but it’s not the single responsibility of the provincial government. To him, it’s not nearly as important as dealing with the health care crisis the province is now facing.
While in the area, Burrill visited the Nova Scotia Community College’s Amherst Learning Centre and he was also in Oxford on Monday night to meet with town council.