Nova Scotia

Cape Breton MLA Alfie MacLeod ejected from House over comments to health minister

Alfie MacLeod, MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, was ejected from the House of Assembly on Wednesday for implying the health minister was lying about doctors serving Cape Breton.

'All I want him to do is be honest to the people of Cape Breton Island,' MacLeod says

Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg MLA Alfie MacLeod was ejected from the House of Assembly on Thursday. (CBC)

Alfie MacLeod, the MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, was ejected from the House of Assembly on Wednesday for implying the health minister was lying.

House Speaker Kevin Murphy ruled MacLeod's choice of words unparliamentary.

MacLeod was asking Health Minister Leo Glavine for current information about the doctor-patient ratio in Cape Breton.

Glavine said 10 new doctors are coming to Cape Breton this year — but MacLeod said he wasn't satisfied with that information.

"All I want him to do is be honest to the people of Cape Breton Island and the people of rural Nova Scotia," he said.

'You just get so frustrated'

"He tells us that, indeed, there's more doctors coming  but right now there's no doctors for these people. Even if there's more doctors coming, there are more doctors leaving."

MacLeod said he's embarrassed about being thrown out.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine says more doctors are on the way for Cape Breton. (CBC)

"You know, I don't take any pride in what took place, I'm a little embarrassed about it quite honestly. There comes a point where you just get so frustrated."

He said he just wants to know who is in charge of making decisions regarding hiring doctors in the province.

'Who are the ones actually in charge?'

"I mean, when we're told in the House of Assembly that there are only 12 doctors who are trained outside of Nova Scotia, outside of Canada, that are allowed to get residency here in Cape Breton Island," he said.

"There's something wrong with that. Is it the Department of Health? Is it the health authority? Is it the Dalhousie medical school or is it Doctors Nova Scotia? Who are the ones actually in charge of making the decisions?"

Health minister responds

In an interview, Glavine said the ratio of patients to family physicians in Cape Breton is about 1,200 to one.

"That is just a little bit above the provincial average. So that's not too far out of line," he said. 

The minister also said there is a "real anomaly" at the moment in Cape Breton.

"Before the Fort McMurray fire, with the dramatic downturn in the price of oil, there have been a considerable number of people moving back into Cape Breton and the Sydney area, coming home obviously without a family doctor," he said.

Thousands without a doctor

But that doesn't account for all of the Cape Bretoners without access to a primary care physician.

Between retirements and departures last year, thousands were left without a doctor.

As for the 10 doctors reported to be coming to Cape Breton in July, neither the minister nor the Nova Scotia Health Authority has said whether any of them plan to set up practice on the island, or if they are here only for a short-term placement.

With files from Mainstreet Cape Breton, Peggy MacDonald

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