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Some site work has begun on future of Cape Breton health care

Some preparatory site work, including the drilling of bore holes, is taking place at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital site in advance of the planned expansion of the hospital and cancer centre. It's been a year since officials announced the expansions, as well as the closure of hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney, to be replaced by community health centres.
Some preparatory site work, including the drilling of bore holes, is taking place at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital site in advance of the planned expansion of the hospital and cancer centre. It's been a year since officials announced the expansions, as well as the closure of hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney, to be replaced by community health centres. - Nancy King
SYDNEY, N.S. —

A year after a transformational announcement was made about the future of health care in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, some initial preparatory site work is underway.

The tender for the design of the new regional hospital and cancer centre site has been awarded, and there is a drill on the hospital site taking samples.

The bore holes being drilled at the site will give the designers the information they need to plan for the foundation and structure of the hospital addition, noted Nick Goodine, manager of Infrastructure, Transportation Infrastructure and Renewal for the province.

There will also be a request for proposals used in the coming days for the design of a new parking lot for the hospital site.

Last June 25, emotions ran high and speeches by dignitaries and politicians were peppered with boos and jeers from the about 200 people who attended the announcement at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, many of whom were unhappy with the plans unveiled by Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government.

While details about the regional hospital project were released in March, many of the specifics of the new community health centres to be constructed in New Waterford and North Sydney, as well as a planned expansion to the Glace Bay Hospital, haven’t yet been unveiled. Mark LeCouter, senior director of CBRM health-care redevelopment project, said the design layouts for those facilities will be ready to be unveiled in the next few weeks.

“I think in the next couple of weeks we’ll have some conceptual layouts for each of those sites,” he said.

The construction tender for the long-awaited Glace Bay renal clinic has been awarded to Joneljim, LeCouter noted.

“The construction and renovation will be starting there very shortly, in Glace Bay,” he said.

LeCouter said to date no unforeseen challenges have emerged in the process, although Health Minister Randy Delorey did say last week that the functional planning process is running slightly behind the nine to 12 months that was initially identified.

Troy Penney, clinical director, CBRM health-care redevelopment project, said they have deal with “misinformation” from the initial announcement about the services that will continue to be offered at the North Sydney and New Waterford sites, such as diagnostic imaging.

He added that those sites will remain open until the new health centres are constructed.

“(We’re) just trying to settle people’s nerves around the plan and what will remain in the communities,” Penney said.

LeCouter said they understand that communities are very invested in their health-care facilities and the team working on the redevelopment is continuing to meet with various groups to speak about their concerns.

Because the precise size of the new buildings hasn’t yet been finalized, the precise locations where they will be built hasn’t yet been determined, Penney said.

“That dictates the amount of land we need to acquire and purchase,” he said. “We’re getting very close, as we finalize this process.”

He didn’t speak at the redevelopment announcement although he was on the dais, but a year later Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey said in an interview he and his cabinet colleagues — in addition to McNeil, local MLAs Derek Mombourquette and Geoff MacLellan were there — knew it was a significant announcement about the future of health care in the region.

“We all were there to provide information that we had for the vision that we had for revitalizing the health-care infrastructure for the region,” Delorey said.

While members of the provincial government have stressed the role they believe the new and expanded facilities will play in recruiting and retaining staff in the future, critics have said that focus is doing nothing to resolve current needs in the system which include doctors from providing in-patient care at community hospitals because of a pay disparity with physicians serving the regional hospital.

While planning has taken a bit longer than initially anticipated, Delorey noted it is a large project — the regional hospital and cancer centre work on its own is expected to cost about $125 million — involving four communities.

“This is a massive project, (and) that’s just on the infrastructure side … clinical health services needs were a big driver in that and we need to make we have those health-care needs for the future of these communities,” Delorey said.

Recruitment is an issue across the country, the minister said, but Nova Scotia is seeing some success in some of the initiatives that it has undertaken.

Dr. Kevin Orrell, senior medical director for the CBRM health-care redevelopment project and an orthopedic surgeon, said he wanted to get involved in the project partially because he is a native Cape Bretoner.

“I feel that I have a knowledge of how we have evolved over time and the changes that are necessary to continue to provide health care into the future,” he said.

He added he also has knowledge of issues facing health care across the country, which he thought would be useful in a project that involves significant change.

Early on in his career, Orrell was also involved in the committee that oversaw the closure of smaller hospitals and the opening of the regional hospital.

“I felt that it would be an opportunity to influence change, to bring a Cape Breton perspective, but to bring a perspective from the experience I’ve gained with other things,” he said.

Orrell noted there are many players involved in the work, including Health and Wellness and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

He said he’s generally happy with where things stand a year out from the announcement.

“I think that the 12 months has been very successful in getting the functional design almost to completion,” he said.

nancy.king@cbpost.com

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