Raw Emotions at Pugwash Health Care Rally
Demonstrations have been held across the province as people begin to demand attention to the health care crisis, especially in rural Nova Scotia. The issue hit a raw nerve in Pugwash tonight.
Over five hundred people gathered on the lawn of the North Cumberland Hospital tonight and it was clear that the province’s lack of attention to health services is an issue ready to boil over.
Three doctors and a nurse addressed the gathering, each with a different perspective on the crisis, but all agree on the solution.
Dr. Paul Begin says, “We all know we’re in a crisis here. We should have another three full-time doctors.”
The Pugwash facility is closed for at least part of the day, seven days a week. Dr. Begin used to take a shift on Thursdays, but he recently had to reduce that to a part of Thursday.
In fact, the Pugwash hospital depends on visiting doctors to provide the daytime emergency service. Begin says, “When 58 people show up, in the morning, to see you that day, there is a problem, big problem.”
Begin noted that the doctors who have served the community so well for so long, are getting older. Referring to Dr. Blaikie and Dr. McFarlane, he said, “Who is going to fill-in when we retire. There is no one coming up in the ranks. The government is doing nothing to recruit and retain physicians in the rural areas, absolutely nothing.”
In a dire warning, Dr. Begin said, “I think they (the government) would be happy if all the small community hospitals closed. It would be a money saving thing for them.”
Speaking from a regional perspective, Dr. Murray McCrossin, of Amherst, said, “There is a need for doctors locally, but when they can’t get care here, it all spills over into the regional hospital.”
McCrossin says everybody is contributing, but the shortage of doctors means, “We are one broken leg away from shutting down the program.”
There was an obvious, loud applause at the introduction of Dr. Brian McFarlane, who is the face of the local physician community.
McFarlane says there are six things that we need here: primary care physicians serving the Pugwash Hospital; the emergency department needs Dr. Begin and others to ensure that emergency services are open on a regular and predictable basis; a well staffed regional hospital to cover the more difficult problems; tertiary care in Halifax; a new hospital in Pugwash, as long sought and long promised; and EHS services that can convey patients to and from services as needed.
McFarlane says, “Peoples needs are legitimate. The needs are not going to go away. This place needs to be open on a predictably more regular basis.”
He suggested the process is going forward to solve these problems. However, he noted that the process is slow and what is needed is outcomes. He emphasized, “We need results.”
McFarlane’s summation was a call to the Premier. He said, “We have legitimate needs. We don’t want a Taj Mahal for a hospital. We want a basic hospital. We want to provide for the legitimate needs of the community.”
A Nurse Unleashed
The final speaker was a retired nurse from Springhill who now works in a retirement home. She was invited to speak because her colleagues in Pugwash were warned that they should not speak against their employer.
Bonnie MacNeil (different spelling and no relation to the premier) said she spent 43 years in nursing to get herself to the point where she could ignore a gag order. MacNeil did not disappoint.
The retired nurse called the premier, ”That little dictator,” and she suggested that he would close the Pugwash emergency and he may be looking at the same for Parrsboro, Springhill, and perhaps Tatamagouche.
The speakers had an impact, but it was clear that the people of the area did not need any further encouragement. Hundreds gathered to sign a petition or to get a form letter directed to the premier.
Stephen McNeil stood before the people of the Pugwash area just prior to the last provincial election to announce that shovels would be in the ground in 2018 to build a new new hospital. Few believed him then, and fewer believe him now.
If Stephen McNeil wants to run another election, tonight’s gathering in Pugwash was a warning bell. He has not fooled the people, and without a real and dramatic change of course, his future as premier is dead in the water.
In the attached photo, Dr. Brian McFarlane addresses the crowd in Pugwash about the six needs facing community health care.
The photo below shows the throng that gathered to sign a petition or to receive a form letter to use in communicating with the Premier. The lady in the blue top, centre of photo, was surrounded as she distributed forms.