Premier meets with health-care leaders to find ways to fix over-burdened system

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston takes questions from reporters after he held a summit with the province's health-care leaders Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston takes questions from reporters after he held a summit with the province's health-care leaders Tuesday. (CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston held a summit with provincial health-care leaders Tuesday after the recent deaths of two patients who sought treatment in hospital emergency departments.

"The events over the last week or so have put in a new sense of urgency," Houston said in reference to the deaths of Allison Holthoff and Charlene Snow — two women who died at the end of December while waiting for care.

Houston said the summit was a chance to get "all the people who have an impact on how health care is managed in the province in one room so we can all talk about the same sense of urgency."

Houston said his message to health-care leaders is to "go like hell."

"Just go, just get going to get this fixed," he said, adding they also talked about hurdles health-care workers are currently facing and how to get them out of the way.

Houston said there are two or three actions that could be taken immediately to improve health care and said there will be an announcement about them on Wednesday.

Expanding scope of practice

Houston said there was a lot of discussion about scope of practice among medical professionals and how it needs to be expanded.

He said this includes, "making sure a pharmacist can do all the things they're trained to do, making sure a physiotherapist can do all the things they're trained to do, that a nurse can do everything they're trained to do."

Nova Scotia Nurses Union President Janet Hazelton said health care needs to be fixed and everyone who attended the summit is willing to do what it takes.

CBC
CBC

"There's no time for us and them anymore, what we need is all us. And so we owe that to Nova Scotians, we owe people confidence when they enter our health-care system that they are going to get good care," she said.

Hazelton said there needs to be respect for health-care workers.

"We need to say, employer, government, violence within our health-care system has got to stop and you've got to be part of the solution to stop it," Hazelton said.

"What are we going to do to stop that? Twenty-four-hour shifts, that's not respectful. If I'm asked or forced to work a 24-hour shift, that's not showing me respect. So what are we going to do to stop that?"

Hugh Gillis, the first vice-president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, said he felt the meeting was productive.

"The NSGEU represents nurses at the Halifax Infirmary. We met with those nurses earlier in December and I raised some of those concerns with the premier and other folks around the table this afternoon," Gillis said.

'Reactive' government

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender said she thinks issues with the emergency department are a "symptom of problems that have existed in the health-care system for years."

"... I find it a little bit disingenuous that we're suddenly having this summit and announcement when these are all recognized over issues," Chender said.

Chender said she's glad there will be a focus on retaining employees because "we are losing nurses and we are losing them for a lot of reasons and we can't afford to lose a single one."

Nova Scotia Liberal health critic Brendan Maguire called the Houston government "reactive" instead of proactive when it comes to health care. He said he wants to see Houston's plan.

"They stand here in front of the media with no answers, no solutions. I just want some answers," he said.

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