An election campaign is a time when strangers come to our doors pretending to be virgins. They have no negative past and are full of promise. They are sure they can do better than others.
Can they? In Nova Scotia all three political parties have formed government. So, if and when they speak of health care, ask them what they and/or their party did when they were in office.
Here’s a list of who was in office, when:
Premier GI Smith (Progressive Conservative) 1967 – 1970
Premier Gerald Regan (Liberal) 1970 – 1978)
Premier John Buchanan (Progressive Conservative) 1978 – 1990
Premier Roger Bacon (Progressive Conservative) 1990 – 1991
Premier Donald Cameron (Progressive Conservative) 1991 – 1993
Premier John Savage (Liberal) 1993 – 1997
Premier Russell MacLellan (Liberal) 1997 – 1999
Premier John Hamm (Progressive Conservative) 1999 – 2006
Premier Rodney MacDonald (Progressive Conservative) 2006 – 2009
Premier Darrell Dexter (NDP) 2009 – 2013
Premier Stephen McNeil (Liberal) 2013 – 2017
For over 30 years the water at the VG was so toxic it is not fit for human consumption. You can’t even wash your hands with it. The only thing you can do with it is flush a toilet.
Ask those seeking office why their government allowed that to continue? Why wasn’t it fixed right away?
The Dartmouth General Hospital was built in 1976. But it was not finished. Until now three floors were left empty. Why?
Ask them – and yourself – why you would trust their party to form a government when in the past they were content to let these issues exist.
Some people see an election as a time and way to punish someone for a poor medical experience: the inability to find a family doctor, a wait for a hip or knee surgery or other treatment and/or for hours spent in an ER.
We are always mad at the government of the day and in our anger/frustration we forget why we rejected another party and voted for change. But do we get the change we think we’re getting or are promised?
The people who run the daily delivery of health care – the health executives – are the ones we should be angry with. We vote for change and get the same old care. For decades the same complaints have existed. The one constant over the years are the executives. They’re the ones we should be angry with. It’s cause and effect.
In an appearance on the CBC, The Globe and Mail’s health care reporter, Andre Picard, says issues in Canada’s health-care system is not in the medicine, but in engineering and administrative problems. “We don’t often make that distinction. We think we can cure what ills our system by just throwing more medical bodies at it.”
You can hear him here:
Picard says politicians do a lot of firefighting, fixing small problems without actually overhauling the system and making drastic change.
Nova Scotia has undergone radical change. We have merged nine health silos into one provincial health authority, which has cut some administration (not enough) and is working at coordinating resources. For example, over 670 patients were given the opportunity to travel outside their home health district to have knee surgeries. That saved them a long wait. We still have a waiting list, but now we’re using all provincial operating rooms and surgical teams, where in the past these facilities were under utilized. Prior to 2015, patients were given no such an option. That fed the long surgical wait times.
The other frustration comes from expecting a quick fix in terms of hospitals. Everyone knows the VG is a disaster in terms of problems with the building. That’s due to consecutive governments and health executives doing nothing to address major maintenance. Instead, we had window dressing and deferred maintenance.
In 2016 CBC reporter Jean Laroche asked the six previous health ministers why nothing was done to fix the water situation at the VG. All six said Capital Health never asked for money to repair the water problem! That is outrageous. How could health executives not ask to have the water problem fixed? And why weren’t they dismissed for such oversight? Conversely, how did ministers and governments not know there was a problem?
It’s worth remembering that when today’s opposition parties were in government they did dick all to fix the problems that still vex Nova Scotians. In the campaign-induced virginity parties and candidates don’t explain their inaction and acceptance of the status quo. Make them.
Vote for who you wish, but when they come knocking on your door promising the world, ask what their party did when they formed a government? Political memory is convenient. In December 2009 there was a brief health care strike. It lasted a few hours in the middle of the night. From the outside it looked like the best case scenario. But what was missed by the public is the disruption. In the weeks leading up to the strike surgeries and treatments were cancelled and delayed. Hospitals only took in the most urgent medical cases because no one knew who would be available to treat patients. After the labour situation was settled, it took in excess of three months to sort out the delays and cancellations. Then we almost had a paramedic strike, which was ironic given the then Minister of Health had been a paramedic.
Another on-going issue is doctor availability. One study says Nova Scotia needs 100 new doctors a year. Between April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2017 the province hired 177 new doctors. Just under the target. Of those only 71 were family GPs, the 106 others were specialists.
There are doctors willing to work in the province, but the rigidity of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) in approving doctors for practice has been the roadblock. NSHA has a plan to open 74 Collaborative Family Practises across the province. It is, as Doctors Nova Scotia says, an aspirational vision. To achieve this goal, NSHA has resisted approving new doctors for solo or non-collaborative practice. There is hope that the authority is going to loosen the reigns to allow more doctors to establish hybrid practices with the idea it will be merged into a collaborative centre as they open. That would go a long way to serve Nova Scotians.
It may make the blood boil to learn that the Canadian Institute for Health Information says that as of 2015, the last year for full statistics, Nova Scotia has the highest number of physicians per person in Canada. Nationally, the average is 228 doctors per 100,000 population. In Nova Scotia there are 261 physicians per 100,000 people. Newfoundland has 243, Quebec 242, PEI 181, Saskatchewan 196 and Manitoba 204.
The Nova Scotia numbers might be skewed by the number of specialists. But it’s a competitive world when it comes to hiring doctors. In the U.K. two in five GPs are planning to quit their practices. The U.S. is facing a doctor shortage. Same for nurses. We’re competing internationally for medical professionals. The quickest fix is for NSHA to open up their regulations. Again, that’s for the health executives to do, not politicians. So direct your anger and frustration at the right group.