NDP says reducing health districts would create havoc

Tina Comeau
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Maureen MacDonald

Maureen MacDonald may have gone into this election as the province’s finance minister, but her heart still lies with her previous portfolio as minister of health, and she says she and her NDP colleagues have grave concerns over plans by the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, if elected, to reduce the number of district health authorities in the province.

“I have to say I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see that because I know what the implications of that are,” MacDonald said, responding to the Liberal and Tory election platforms, which were both released Wednesday, Sept. 11. “For health care, it throws the health-care system into yet another reorganization that focuses on the bureaucracy rather than front-line health care where we really need to stay focused.”

The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are both proposing a reduction in the current 10 district health authorities as a means of reducing spending in health-care administration.

The Progressive Conservative platform calls for just three district health authorities in the province – one for the Capital district (HRM), one for the rest of Nova Scotia and one for the IWK Health Centre.

The Liberals view even three district health authorities as too many. They propose two health authorities – one for the IWK and one for the rest of Nova Scotia. The Liberal platform maintains that going from 10 to two district health authorities would save $13 million annually.

MacDonald, however, feels the health-care system would pay the price through more restructuring upheaval. She says when the other two parties, while in power, changed the number of health districts, it created chaos in the system when instead the focus should be on front-line health care.

“It’s literally probably a two or a three-year project to reorganize. You first of all have to do bunches of studies. Where is the central body going to be located? Halifax? Are all of the decisions going to be made in Halifax? And what services are going to be centralized,” she said. “It really is a nightmare.”

MacDonald isn’t suggesting that the health-care bureaucracy hasn’t grown too large. She says that’s why the NDP reduced the number of vice-presidents and directors within the districts. She’s asked, then, is there something in between what the NDP government has done and what the other two parties are proposing?

“Our proposal is to continue to merge services that make sense to be merged,” MacDonald says. “We have a plan to continue to do this in a very gentle way, not to amalgamate all of the district health authorities. Our view is that local health-care decisions should be made locally and based on the needs of the population and the community. You really don’t want to get into a situation where the people who are making the decisions are so far away they don’t understand the implications.”

MacDonald also feels the other two parties have been too silent when it comes to addressing the issue of ER care.

Meanwhile, asked about the issue of family doctors and the fact that thousands of Nova Scotians, including many in southwestern Nova Scotia, do not have a family doctor, MacDonald believes a recently announced medical residency training site program for South West Health is going to have a positive impact on the doctor situation.

“What that does is it gives young medical students who have done the academic part of their work a real immersion in a rural practice and they get to see the benefits of living in a rural community and it entices them to stay when they understand that there are many opportunities for them,” she says.


Organizations: NDP, Progressive Conservatives, IWK Health Centre

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • J.Fowler
    September 16, 2013 - 16:32

    I was wondering who was running here in Amherst.No wonder the NDP are in trouble

  • maya
    September 16, 2013 - 08:49

    The NDP cut all right. The professional workers on the front line and added unqualified workers to fill the jobs. Yhere were no jobs cut at the management level but added. Managers and assistant managers galore to try to figure out where they are going wrong. It's not working no matter what the NSNU president says.

  • David Wood
    September 16, 2013 - 08:21

    Centralizing and decentralizing healthcare services has been going on for decades in an effort to find efficiencies and effective delivery of services. The Cumberland Health Authority (CHA) has led the province in implementing programs such as the CEC's and the bursary program for students entering the healthcare system, in addition to other important initiatives. The CHA has done it first and the rest of the province (NS and then Manitoba) followed our local initiative. Reducing the number of Health Authorities will make it more difficult for our concerns in Cumberland County to be heard and reduce our ability to address important local healthcare issues. The proposed changes would, without doubt, not save money or redistribute resources to the front lines. Instead it would remove a lot of local control over our healthcare need. There are better ways to find solutions that move us toward a more sustainable healthcare system.

  • wingman
    September 15, 2013 - 07:23

    How come it is working in Alberta with the reduction in Health boards.

    • Tammy Gillis
      September 17, 2013 - 07:58

      If it is working so well in Alberta, wingman, why did the entire board get fired earlier this year. I would have t say the firing of all 10 board members points to something NOT working, actually. But if you want to tramp on workers' rights, and have all your health care workers under one board, all nurses, for example negotiating one contract and therefore most likely being subject to Lisa Raitt style back to work orders, then by all means, go ahead and amalgamate all the boards. Just keep in mind that if these unionized workers are hamstrung and cannot achieve higher wages and better working conditions, none of the province's workers will either. Everyone will end up paying for this in the long run!

  • Graham Johnston
    September 13, 2013 - 16:43

    Few would agree with Ms MacDonald’s silly notion the hospital system works. Indeed, it’s unsustainable and threatens provincial bankruptcy unless changed. I give credit to both the Conservatives and Liberals for confronting the issue, in the absence of any plan from the NDP to even acknowledge problems. I trust many who formerly supported the NDP feel the same. The facts speak for themselves: Last year Ms MacDonald’s finance department did its best, and yet it still recorded a whopping deficit of $350 MILLION! Since her NDP party formed government four years ago, it added a staggering $ 2 BILLION – that’s a “B” - to the provincial debt. And yet she wants to leave the hospital system as is and lashes out at those who would fix it! She clearly has no plan to rationalize the health delivery system, or balance the budget. She and her NDP collegues have had four years to tinker with the system and quite frankly it’s a mess. Our great-grandchildren will be paying interest on the NDP debt for generations to come. Ms MacDonald and the NDP lack the moral authority to criticize either of the two opposing parties for their determination to balance the budget and deliver the kind of community health care we deserve. - Graham Johnston, East Earltown, NS.

  • chuck
    September 13, 2013 - 12:49

    You first of all have to do bunches of studies. Where is the central body going to be located? Halifax? Are all of the decisions going to be made in Halifax? And what services are going to be centralized,” she said. “It really is a nightmare.” Gee Ms. Minister are not all the decisions regarding health care not made in Halifax now??, approved by the Halifax crowd and supported by the local provincial government rooted in Halifax??

  • B.Pol
    September 13, 2013 - 12:29

    OMG! I can't stand much more of the lying and cheating! The NDP have been quietly doing this and have already completed amalgamating all the services in every District. They are, as we speak, doing this now at the School Boards! Elected Boards will be no longer - they will be appointed under the NDP govt. There will be NO ONE representing YOU the taxpayer! And we already know how much money is wasted and the lack of talent on these appointed Boards. The NDP remind me of a Dictatorship and they will continue on this direction if elected again!

  • Johnny smoke
    September 13, 2013 - 11:53

    What a foolish statement, next time you are ill try showing up at the offices of the local Health Authority . If you do make sure it is between 9 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and do not show up at all after 1p.m. on Friday afternoon as they will have all gone for the weekend,Oh by the way with the $50+ millions saved maybe just matbe the vets will finally get their home cooked meals, something that is moving as slowly as the rest of the procedures entrusted to the local Health Authorities.