When you’ve done everything Dr. Brian Ferguson has, it’s understandable when your body says it’s time to slow down. Unfortunately, his decision to close his family medicine practice is going to have a huge impact on health care in Cumberland County.
Saying that, however, we can’t begrudge the fact Ferguson – who has been such a passionate advocate for his patients, the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre and health care in Nova Scotia – can’t continue the pace he has followed since first coming to Amherst with his wife, Dr. Celina White, in 1986.
Those who have had the privilege of crossing paths with the Cape Breton native have come to admire and respect him because they know he has their back. Numerous times over the last 33 years Ferguson has gone to the wall to defend his patients and his goal has always been to make sure his patients received the best possible care possible.
It hasn’t always been easy. In the early 1990s, when the John Savage Liberals were elected, ending a couple of decades of Progressive Conservative government, the new government consolidated health care with regional boards and threatened the provision of health care at the local level.
Ferguson, along with Dr. Kris Bienkowski and Dawn Thompson, took on then minister Russell Stewart and convinced the province to bring Level 2 emergency and regional status to the then Highland View hospital and the new Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.
It’s something we got to see a repeat of last summer when he stuck his head above the parapet and sounded the alarm about the future of the regional hospital’s status because of a declining number of physicians and specialists – threatening the centre’s status as Cumberland County’s regional hospital.
Most physicians are happy to go about their business, care for their patients and avoid flying above the radar unless the province or the Nova Scotia Health Authority takes exception. That’s not something that has every frightened or silenced Ferguson and we have all benefitted from that.
Ferguson has continually been a thorn in government’s side because he cares about his patients and his community. He’s cared so much that his own health suffered last year and despite having no history of ill health or any heart issues, he faced a serious cardiac ailment that threatened to take his life.
Fortunately, he has recovered but he has realized – upon consultation with the family, his cardiologist and his mother – that he just can’t continue all three aspects of his career: his family practice, ER coverage and in-patient coverage at the regional hospital.
Thankfully, while it’s sad to see a long-time family practice come to an end, we can be thankful Ferguson will remain involved in the health-care community at the regional hospital and possibly at All Saints CEC – a hospital that’s seen more than its share of ER closures in recent years.
While tributes continue to flow for the Amherst physician, thankfully they are tributes that celebrate a successful career and contribution to community life and not a eulogy for someone who didn’t listen to his body.