Nova Scotia

Broad plans on Cape Breton hospital redevelopment coming soon

The Nova Scotia government announced plans in June to close community hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford, and expand facilities in Glace Bay and Sydney.

Nova Scotia Health Authority looking for members of volunteer advisory council

The Glace Bay hospital will be expanded as part of the province's overhaul of emergency health care in Cape Breton. (CBC)

The broad plans for the closure and redevelopment of hospitals in Cape Breton should be revealed soon.

The provincial government announced in June it intends to close community hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford.

But before that happens, the province said it will open new long-term care facilities and community health centres, as well as expand the community hospital in Glace Bay and the regional hospital in Sydney.

Dr. Kevin Orrell, an orthopedic surgeon who works in Sydney, was named senior medical director of the redevelopment team just last month.

He said the so-called functional planning process is about 95 per cent complete, and he expects details of that plan will be released in the next few weeks.

Dr. Kevin Orrell was appointed as senior medical director of the redevelopment team in January. Orrell is an orthopedic surgeon in Sydney. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

"We wouldn't be talking about the design of the buildings," he said. "We would be talking about the number of beds, for example, that are going to be required if two smaller hospitals close, and we have to assume the bed numbers in Sydney or in Glace Bay that will accommodate that loss."

Orrell said building designs will be done in the next stage and some parts of the functional plan are further advanced than others.

For example, expansion of the Cape Breton Cancer Centre at the regional hospital has been discussed for years, as has expansion of renal dialysis beds in North Sydney.

Those parts of the plan are further ahead than the plans for acute-care beds that will be moving out of New Waterford and North Sydney for redistribution in Glace Bay and Sydney.

Orrell said he intends to make sure the public gets to see the results of the functional planning process before the design stage begins.

An ambulance waits at the entrance to the emergency department at New Waterford Consolidated Hospital in June 2018. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

He also said even though he was appointed months after planning started, he has already provided meaningful input.

"I always had a major concern about how much voice Cape Bretoners have about the health care in our own community, and I feel through this position that I've been given the voice that I complained I didn't have before," Orrell said.

In one instance, Orrell said he was asked for input on a bed plan, which he took to his colleagues for feedback. The suggested changes that went back to the redevelopment team were then incorporated in the plan.

Volunteer advisory council

Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia Health Authority is seeking applications from the public for a volunteer advisory council. The deadline to apply is March 15.

Orrell said he believes the advisory council will also have meaningful input, even though the functional plan will essentially be complete by then.

"I would most certainly not want to see volunteers ... who are just there to be figureheads," he said.

"I would actively look for their input, and from my position, I would reassure them that their time would be well spent, because they would be certainly listened to, and their views would be considered significantly."

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 15 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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