Nova Scotia health-care officials expect improvements in 2023

Nova Scotia Health interim CEO Karen Oldfield and deputy health minister Jeannine Lagasse listen at the front of the room during a public meeting in Dartmouth on Thursday. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia Health interim CEO Karen Oldfield and deputy health minister Jeannine Lagasse listen at the front of the room during a public meeting in Dartmouth on Thursday. (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)

The interim CEO of Nova Scotia Health says the public can expect to see improvements to the province's ailing health-care system in the first half of 2023.

Karen Oldfield made the comments during a public meeting Thursday in Dartmouth.

"We've spent the last 15 months digging to the bottom of the well and once we got to the bottom, building the ladder to get out," she told the crowd of about 50 people in attendance.

"I'm comfortable that we have the momentum."

In an interview, Oldfield said that progress will include the rollout of more family medicine and collaborative care clinics, large graduating classes of health-care professions, and a focus on hiring and expanding the use of technology to help people access the health-care system.

Deputy health minister Jeannine Lagasse said meeting the target of an additional 2,500 surgeries per year will also be a priority.

A need to hear from people

Thursday's meeting was the latest conducted by Oldfield, Lagasse and Health Minister Michelle Thompson around the province this fall, with more scheduled in the coming weeks.

"I think it's really important to get out of the office and talk to people and make sure that we're hitting the mark," said Oldfield.

"You can do it online but it's not the same thing. It's not the same thing as feeling what people feel, seeing what they're going through, understanding, trying to meet people where they are."

Oldfield said her assessment of the meetings so far is that people are interested, they want to know what's happening and many of them have suggestions or issues they want to raise.

"My overall takeaway is that there's a big appetite for information," she said.

'We're not waiting'

To that end, Lagasse, Oldfield and several health-care professionals fielded a variety of questions and comments on topics including the reasons doctors leave the province, what's being done to attract more staff, and what the options are in terms of funding models.

There were also questions about what's happening with the Halifax Infirmary redevelopment — Oldfield said news is "imminent" on that project — as well as calls for more collaborative care clinics and ways to help more people access healthier food and lead healthier lives.

When the meetings finish next month, Lagasse said the senior leadership team will review what they've heard this fall and determine where else they can act.

"But we're not waiting," she said.

"If we see something we can move on, we will."

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