'Code critical': Some health-care advocates say calls for change go unheeded

People in Nova Scotia are calling for urgent action to address issues in health care, but some say they aren't being heard.

About 60 people gathered for a rally in downtown Halifax on Saturday afternoon, holding signs with the phrase "Code Critical" and chanting, "We need more doctors."

Several doctors spoke at Saturday's rally about their frustration, burnout and calls for change.

Among them was Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan, a family doctor in Halifax. She called the event "an organic uprising of people" in Nova Scotia.

"I think the health-care crisis has now crested," Jayabarathan said.

"Regardless of all the reassurance that we've heard from the government and the health authority ... so much of it is happening, we can't remain silent about it anymore and this can't just go on as if it's business as usual."

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Three emergency physicians from the Annapolis Valley Regional Hospital also spoke on Saturday. They've launched a crowdfunding campaign for more long-term care beds at the hospital.

"Hallway medicine has unfortunately become the norm. It shouldn't be that way," said Dr. Robert Miller.

Miller, who works at Valley Regional Hospital and South Shore Regional Hospital, said the provincial government "doesn't want to hear the message."

"Hospitals are overcrowded with long-term care patients, so acute care beds are lost in that process. It's absolutely something we need to address immediately," he said, adding that it puts incredible stress on all staff.

The event was organized by a group called Nova Scotia Health Care in Crisis, started a few months ago by Leslie Tilley.

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"All I see is these news articles come in and they just kept coming and no one was saying anything, no one was doing anything and I just thought, 'I'll just give it a try, start the group see how it goes,'" she said.

"Every Nova Scotian deserves health care."

Tilley said she fears that more doctors are going to leave the province.

"As far as the doctors and nurses and frontline people, if they don't get immediate help now, they will burn out. And then where will we be?" Tilley said.

"So I started the group to make change and Stephen McNeil has to own up to making it. It is a crisis, it's at the tipping point."