Dr. Brian Ferguson said the provincial government must come clean about the future of the hospital that opened in 2003 in Upper Nappan.
“People here should be scared to death,” Ferguson said. “The minister continues to talk in parables when he should be giving clear and concise answers about whether this hospital is going to lose its status.”
Ferguson and Dr. Kris Bienkowski waged a long battle with the former John Savage government in the mid-1990s to secure Level 2 emergency status for the former Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst.
When that hospital was replaced with the new Cumberland regional hospital, its status was transferred to the new facility that underwent tremendous success recruiting physicians and specialists under the former Cumberland Health Authority.
Now there are rumours the hospital’s services are being threatened with some surgeons being asked to perform surgery in other regional hospitals.
“This government wants to centralize everything when it comes to health care,” Ferguson said. “They could at least be upfront and honest about their plan.”
Centralization, he said, will backfire. Ferguson said the provincial government should have learned the lessons of failed centralization elsewhere, but it’s determined to follow the same template.
To maintain its status, the hospital needs to be able to provide 24-hour ER coverage, including being able to handle trauma, have an operating room and an intensive care unit as well as providing cancer care, obstetrics and gynecological care.
“It’s a slippery slope when any of these things begin to fall away. It’s a house of cards if a regional hospital starts to lose its ability to offer full health care because suddenly it also becomes harder and harder to recruit physicians and keep the ER open,” said Ferguson, adding there is concern changes may be coming in area’s such as cancer care – specifically surgery.
Cumberland South MLA and PC leader Jamie Baillie wants the government to come clean about the future of the regional hospital.
Baillie said he’s hearing the province is considering moving some services to the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.
“To me it’s very important we maintain Cumberland Regional as a fully operational regional hospital,” Baillie said. “Maintaining Level 2 status is very important to Cumberland County and I’m calling on the provincial government to confirm that Cumberland Regional will keep its Level 2 emergency status under their reorganization.”
Baillie said it’s hard to recruit doctors with the uncertainty hanging over the hospital. He said it’s not fair to the medical staff and the people of the county to leave those questions unanswered.
“The Liberals sold us on the consolidation of the health authorities as a consolidation of administrations, it’s obvious now it’s far deeper than that. It’s a consolidation of services as well and that should never be part of the plan,” Baillie said.
The Progressive Conservatives also promised in the last election to consolidate the number of health authorities, but Baillie said he always intended to keep a rural health authority and that his government’s consolidation would not include centralizing services.
The MLA said he’s also concerned about the government’s plans for other small hospitals in Cumberland County and in other areas of the province.
“I believe they have a plan and they haven’t shared it,” Baillie said. “This piecemeal approach where they quietly take one piece at a time and move it somewhere else is both unfair and sneaky. That is no way to run the health care system.”
Cumberland North Liberal MLA Terry Farrell said Baillie is “grossly misinformed.”
Farrell said he’s disappointed with Baillie’s “fearmongering” and said there is no plan to change the status of the hospital.
“There is absolutely no plan to reduce surgeries at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre,” Farrell said. “In fact, through my discussions with the provincial health authority and the Department of Health, I’ve learned that there is actually the potential to enhance the use of our operating rooms at the regional hospital.”
John Gillis with the Nova Scotia Health Authority said he’s not aware of any specific incidents of surgeons being asked to operate elsewhere.
“However, around the province surgeons sometimes work in other sites, if there is operating room time available, to ensure we make the most of available resources across the system,” Gillis said.