Residents of Victoria County in Cape Breton are looking for ways to attract staff and preserve health care in the largely rural county.
They're forming committees to come up with new ideas for recruiting doctors, and to push for improvements at the hospitals in Baddeck and Neils Harbour.
More than 100 people attended a public meeting in Baddeck Wednesday night. Another meeting will be held in the northern part of the county in Neils Harbour on Nov. 20.
Warden Bruce Morrison said the main concern is the future of Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck.
"We have heard concerns from our citizens and also the medical professionals in our community who've also indicated the challenges they're having with the current operation of their hospital."
This fall, doctors at the hospital said their workload had increased dramatically, as the number of visits to the ER had doubled in a year.
Last fall, a family doctor left Baddeck for P.E.I. after just two years, citing concerns over her workload and the unsustainability of the health-care system.
"We have an excellent small hospital but we have seen a patient increase due to closures of services in other hospitals," said Morrison.
Volunteer committees formed
Morrison said the four committees formed Wednesday night will look at physician recruitment, the hospital foundation, advocacy and fundraising. They'll make recommendations to the provincial government in the new year.
Dave Parkinson, who lives in Baddeck, joined the doctor recruitment and welcoming committee.
"I chose that for myself because I'm not from the area originally. I moved here in '93, and I've had to work hard to develop a career for myself," he said.
"I think that some of those experiences may help to show physicians and their partners that there are opportunities here for their partners and that it is a welcoming environment."
Parkinson said he believes the provincial government will listen to their concerns.
"It won't necessarily be easy, a lot of communities are in the same boat, so there will be some competing interests for the NSHA [Nova Scotia Health Authority] and the politicians to deal with, but we're hopeful that if we're positive, constructive and thoughtful about how we approach this, that we can make some headway."
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