AMHERST – Municipal leaders in Cumberland County and Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin are prepared to work with area physicians to improve the health-care situation across the area.
Members of the municipal councils from Amherst, Oxford and Cumberland County and Smith-McCrossin met informally with doctors on Tuesday and have created a working group to not only help recruit new physicians to Cumberland County but also to take their concerns to Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey.
“It’s absolutely essential that we maintain the status of a regional hospital here,” Amherst Mayor David Kogon said. “We’ve had other threatening issues in the past, but no it’s a manpower issue.”
The mayor said licensing issues have created some problems for physicians at the hospital especially when it comes to services such as anesthesiology, which impacts surgical services at the Upper Nappan hospital.
Kogon, a retired gynecologist, said changes to licensing requirements have some specialists discovering they may not have a licence to practice medicine. Similar changes have also taken place among the province’s psychiatrists.
“We wanted to show our solidarity with the doctors and let them know we’re behind them,” the mayor said. “We listened to what they said and understand the situation is very serious.”
As a regional hospital, the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre needs to offer a number of services including obstetrics, surgery, internal medicine and an intensive care unit. It’s like a house of cards, the mayor said. If one service is threatened because of a physician shortage it can impact other key services within the facility.
“If you don’t have anesthesia you don’t have surgery and if you don’t have internal medicine you don’t have an ICU. So many of the services rely on other services to exist,” Kogon said. “We have to work together to maintain the viability of our Level 2 status.”
The mayor said three councils agreed to form a working group with the physicians, Smith-McCrossin and members of the public to work on some key issues, one of which is recruitment.
Smith-McCrossin said it's important for the premier and health minister to listen to what doctors are saying.
"It's time they take action to ensure there is adequate health care in rural Nova Scotia," the MLA said. "We must bring back local decision-making in health care and provide an avenue for local people to have a voice."
Both Kogon and Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart have agreed to work with the doctors on a recruitment committee to work with the regional and provincial recruitment coordinators.
“The recruiter for the northern zone is located in Truro and there is some feeling that really push Cumberland we need our own committee to work with the recruiter to show how this area could be attractive to new physicians,” Kogon said.
Kogon said when a doctor is looking at the area he or she could meet with local representatives who will try to impress upon them the benefits of living in Cumberland County.
“A person coming to practice medicine at the hospital is looking for certain things, but there’s also the spouse and the children. They are looking at what the community has to offer,” Kogon said.
When Delorey was in Amherst last week to attend a presentation by the Cumberland Opioid Council he stayed in town to meet with Kogon, Stewart and Cumberland County Warden Allison Gillis to discuss their health care concerns.