AMHERST – Cumberland North's MLA is supporting an Amherst physician in his concerns about conditions at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.
Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who is also a member of an area task force working to recruit physicians, said she’s frustrated with the lack of support from the Nova Scotia Health Authority – which she said rejected a request for additional resources to assist with doctor recruitment.
“I wholeheartedly share Dr. Brian Ferguson’s fears about the state of health care under Stephen McNeil’s Liberals at the Cumberland Regional Hospital,” Smith-McCrossin said in an email to the Amherst News.
The MLA, who is also running for the leadership of the provincial PC Party, said it’s time for action and support from the premier and the health authority, not more excuses or false claims that everything is fine.
“I am tired of McNeil and his NSHA saying everything is fine when the people of Nova Scotia and every health care professional in this province know the real truth,” she said. “Everything is not fine. It's time to take the needs of people in the province seriously.”
She said Cumberland County and all of Nova Scotia deserves better and she’s encouraging county residents to sign petitions for better health care at her constituency office in Amherst or with any other member of the Cumberland Healthcare Taskforce.
“It's time to make our voices heard and stop playing politics with people's lives,” she said.
Ferguson recently went public with his concerns with the hospital’s emergency room and the future of the facility as a regional hospital.
The Amherst doctor, with 37 years’ experience (32 in Amherst), said a small group of doctors are working extra hours to keep the ER functioning – a necessity of a regional hospital. While he said 12 doctors are required to maintain round-the-clock ER coverage, only six doctors are available and it’s taking time away from their patients.
He said the departure of several specialists and physicians has him concerned the hospital may not be able to maintain its status.
NSHA spokesperson Kristen Lipscombe said the health authority is aware of the medical staff’s concerns and is working with physician and community leaders to find a solution.
Meanwhile, Amherst is supporting a petition, launched by the Cumberland Healthcare Taskforce, calling on the provincial government and NSHA to do more to retain and recruit physicians to the county.
“The town supports the petition because the steps the taskforce is asking be done would enhance the ability to maintain specialists and recruit them to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre,” Mayor David Kogon said in a news release. “We need an active, dynamic regional hospital complete with a full complement of specialists in order for the Town of Amherst to remain vibrant and be able to attract business here. I can’t imagine a business coming here if we don’t have a vibrant regional hospital.”
The preamble to the petition indicates the catalyst that led the taskforce to launch the petition came from people who were “concerned about the lack of support our physicians are receiving from the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health.”
The taskforce, made up of community leaders, medical professionals and community members, is urging Health and Wellness, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University to open the recently announced Practice Ready Assessment Program to all defined0-licensed physicians currently practicing in Nova Scotia.
It also asks the health authority and Health and Wellness to include local physicians on recruiting teams when attempting to attract doctors to a community.
The goal of the assessment program, announced in the spring by the province, is to prepare internationally-trained doctors for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada exam that if passed would enable them to obtain a full licence to practice from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.
Defined licences are given to physicians, mainly specialists, who do not meet the requirements for a full licence but meet the requirements for independent medical practice under supervision and sponsorship.
Opening the Practice Ready Assessment Program to them would ensure they had ample opportunity to successfully complete the licensing exam they must pass in order to get a full licence, said Kogon, a retired gynecologist.
He also said it made sense to include local physicians when attempting to recruit doctors because they know the communities in which they live and can help new physicians develop a practice that interests them and is well matched to meet the needs of the community.