Premier announces $58.9M in funding for new medical school at Cape Breton University

An artist's rendering of a new medical school planned for Cape Breton University in Sydney. The government of Nova Scotia announced Tuesday it will spend $58.9 million on the project.  (Cape Breton University  - image credit)
An artist's rendering of a new medical school planned for Cape Breton University in Sydney. The government of Nova Scotia announced Tuesday it will spend $58.9 million on the project. (Cape Breton University - image credit)

Nova Scotia aims to recruit, educate and retain more doctors under a plan to open the province's second medical school at Cape Breton University by fall 2025.

Premier Tim Houston announced Tuesday afternoon that $58.9 million will be put toward developing the new campus, which will train 30 new doctors each year in collaboration with Dalhousie University's faculty of medicine.

Cape Breton University launched its proposal for a new medical school in the fall in response to the island's family doctor shortage.

"Today we're responding to the defining challenge of our time, rebuilding and protecting our healthcare system, and we're doing that with a historic investment that is rooted right here in Cape Breton," Houston said at a news conference.

He said he plans to spend whatever it takes when it comes to health care and that the school is needed for long-term sustainability of health care in the province.

"The best way to make sure rural Nova Scotians have access to the health care they need is to train students who come from rural communities," Houston said in a press release before the announcement.

The project will include a new collaborative care clinic at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Marconi campus, and an expansion of Cape Breton University's health and counselling centre.

The press release states that the health and counselling centre will become a key training facility. Its expansion will help meet the increasing demand for health care among students.

A new medical sciences building will be the cornerstone of the medical campus. It will house an educational and research space to train the next generation of family doctors.

"This campus will focus on Nova Scotians who are excited to practice in rural communities. These students will become doctors who are ready to hit the ground running faster in our rural communities," Houston said.

The students' education will include special training in rural health needs such as aging, frailty and disease prevention, Indigenous health and African Nova Scotian health.

"We need to provide better, faster care, and this second medical campus will do that by transforming the way in which we deliver care to Nova Scotians. This campus will train doctors with a focus on the care needs of rural Nova Scotians, and directly offer care to more Cape Bretoners who need it,"  said Minister of Health Michelle Thompson.

According to the release, these projects will advance the province's plan to improve health care in Nova Scotia by investing in education and training opportunities.

"Transforming health care in Nova Scotia will take all of us working together. I am proud of how leaders in the post-secondary sector are stepping up to work together, be part of the solution and get things done to train more health care workers," said Brian Wong, the minister of advanced education.

Matthew Moore/CBC
Matthew Moore/CBC

The funding includes $49 million for the medical sciences building and related infrastructure, $6.2 million for the new clinic and $3.7 million to expand the health and counselling centre.

David Dingwall, the president and vice-chancellor of Cape Breton University, said that the project is a major step forward.

"Simply put, this investment will change the face of health care in Cape Breton, in rural Nova Scotia, and the entire province," he said.

He said CBU is deeply grateful to the Province of Nova Scotia for their faith in the university and for investing in a healthier future for the community.

"This will be a campus with a rural heartbeat, instilling a rural mindset within the next generation of doctors," Dingwall said at the news conference.

Houston also said the province needs to work with a sense of urgency.

"People are willing to roll up their sleeves and help out. They really are. They know we're in a crisis and we want to get through it," he said.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

He addressed concerns around Cape Breton's housing crisis, which is especially dire among international students.

"I accept the challenges of growth. We will invest in housing, we will invest in education and in health care," he said.

Dingwall said that geographically, the school will be close to NSCC's Marconi campus in order to have access to its services.

"It's roughly give or take 50,000 square feet. So it's a sizeable type of entity that will be very important for teaching, for collaboration and for experimentation as well as research," he said.

Dingwall said efforts to find staff for the new school have already begun.

Cape Breton University has signed an agreement with Dalhousie's faculty of medicine to establish the new medical school and share relevant information between the two institutions.