Oh good grief!

Oh good grief.

Jean Laroche of the CBC reports that a facility for those with mental health issues, Simpson Landing, sits half-empty. Simpson Landing has an abundance of beds, yet we keep hearing of a “quiet crisis” in the delivery of mental health care.


We hear that people suffering mental health emergencies have gone to ERs and been turned away. More than once there have been stories of a refusal to admit a person into care or someone being released against family wishes – the implication is that there is no room for them. And while some people struggle for help, we have 20 beds sitting empty!


Now that this has been made public, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) have resorted to the classic response: “The health authority said it was looking at other uses for the vacant part of Simpson Landing, but refused to discuss any or talk about a timeline.”

Of course, further use of a medical facility and a timeline for use are state secrets.

Former NDP cabinet minister Graham Steele has told us that politicians and organizations love to say something is being “studied”. Study sounds like something is being done, when the real purpose of any study is to give cover for inaction. A government may engage in studies to wait out the next election. With senior bureaucrats, like those at NSHA, one assumes study helps them wait out their impending retirement (3-4 years based on age).

Simpson Landing is another in the long list of health care project cock-ups. It was five years late opening and 48 percent over budget.

When it opened then health minister Dave Wilson said the delays and costs were due to a change in location (it was moved closer to the street) and the cost of demolishing another building on the site. Why weren’t demolition costs factored in to the original budget? And in the original planning process why wasn’t location better considered? Any homeowner knows that mid-project changes turn into a money pit, so who authorized the location change? And why wasn’t better planning in evidence?


This project would have been approved in the same time frame as the new Truro hospital, which was two years late opening and 80 percent over budget. Nova Scotia has over 200 years of government projects not coming in on time and on budget, yet, those responsible constantly feign surprise. And with health care we not only can’t project costs and delivery time, we can’t project need.

So what else can’t health executives manage?

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6 Responses to Oh good grief!

  1. Bubbie says:

    I believe the reason for only 50% occupancy boils down to the dollar. Just like long-term care, mental health is understaffed because the government is always looking for ways to cut funding in the health care and seem to pick the two most likely places with the least resistance to make their cuts and that is the elderly and mental health patients, the two groups with the weakest voice that are underfunded, understaffed and undertrained.

    The IWK had a wonderful program called Compass that offered mental health services for troubled youth and was discontinued under the NDP. It is appalling and unconscionable for governments to continue on this path to do everything they can to save money at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our society. The McNeil government has been the one that has hit these two groups the hardest and don’t expect that they will change their policies to create better quality care anytime soon.

    • I get that we blame the politicians for failings in care, but I can’t forget that the daily operations are the responsibility of the Nova Scotia Health Authority. The CBC report suggests that use of this facility plunged by 50% around the same time that the NSHA came into being. Cause and effect?

      These are the same people who spent $500,000 on new office furniture for the executive head quarters. What happened to the furniture used by Capital Health? Hospital beds, wheelchairs and lots of equipment is reused, so surely the executive office decor could have been recycled. But obviously not. Cuts everywhere, but the executive clique.

  2. Bubbie says:

    Yes, the continuum of bureaucrats from one elected government to the other plus the fact there is only one health authority complicates the process to bring any kind of improvements to our health care system. I see the process of bringing more doctors to the province has been put on hold without any plans to do so a long ways down the road. Another promise broken by Premier McNeil and in less than a month into his new mandat, but just as you say, It is not entirely his fault.

    • I haven’t heard any policy announcement about not hiring more doctors. I know that between April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2017 the province hired 177 doctors – 71 GPs and 106 specialists. The Physician Resource Plan says that they province needs to hire 1000 new doctors in the decade between 2015 – 2025. So the 177 new hires is under the target. That said, I was surprised to learn that we have the highest doctor-patient ratio in Canada: 266 doctors per 100,000 population vs 228 as the national average.

      We do need more doctors. The impediment is the credentialing requirement the NSHA instituted to fill out the CCCs and the master agreement negotiated with Doctors NS. We are moving to a system where Nurse Practitioners will have better take home incomes than a significant number of doctors. And the prescribed patient load for NPs is 40% less than a physician. These are decisions not made in Province House, but at NSHA HQ.

  3. Bubbie says:

    I forgot to include the link for the doctor shortage as reported by the CBC on June 13. I also heard that we had more doctors than the national average. I was also told by my doctor who retired a few years ago, that new graduating doctors were not interested in taking over his family practice as they wanted a work/life balance meaning working 9-5 no filling in for absent doctors and no weekend duties. They were not interested in rural practise either. For these reasons, I am told, is what is adding to so many people without a family physician.
    It took two years for my retiring family physician to find another physician to take over his practice. The doctor who took over the practice was a doctor returning to Nova Scotia after working in Ontario for twenty-five years and wanted to finish out his career here. Not wanting to take the chance of not finding a doctor after this doctor retires I was lucky to find a much younger doctor in another practise who assured me that she would be around for a long time.


    • What is annoying about campaign health care discussions is the simplicity. Parties pretend that a vow to hire more doctors will get more doctors. The U.S., the U.K., the E.U., Bermuda and other places are facing doctor and nurse shortages. 15% of BC residents don’t have a doctor. 265,000 residents in England are about to lose their doctors. The U.S. is losing foreign-trained doctors because of the political climate.

      It’s a complex issue. Changing the way the NSHA inhibits practice can help, but no one spoke of that during the campaign.

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