Nova Scotia

Cobequid health centre overcrowding symptomatic of 'health crisis,' opposition says

The Lower Sackville, N.S., health centre is being forced to remain open overnight to look after patients with nowhere else to go. The situation is providing fodder to Nova Scotia's opposition parties, who say it's indicative of a health-care crisis in the province.

Premier Stephen McNeil accuses PCs of defending 'status quo'

The Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville, N.S., is supposed to close at midnight, but staff have repeatedly been forced to remain on duty overnight. (Robert Short/CBC)

The plight of staff at a Lower Sackville, N.S., health centre provided plenty of fodder for Nova Scotia's opposition parties Tuesday, who highlighted the situation as yet another example of what they see as a "health-care crisis" in the province.

The Cobequid Community Health Centre is supposed to close at midnight. But staff have been forced to remain on duty overnight, to look after patients sick enough to need hospitalization with nowhere else to go, nearly a dozen times in the past month.

During Tuesday's question period, PC Leader Tim Houston led the charge by asking Premier Stephen McNeil to define what he would consider a crisis.

"If he doesn't consider this a health-care crisis, can the premier please define for us what he would consider a health-care crisis?" Houston asked.

Government doing its part, premier says

"Our government actually has taken on this issue," McNeil responded. "It's why we're going to increase the emergency department at the Cape Breton regional [by] almost 50 per cent.

"It's why we're seeing an increase at the emergency department in Glace Bay," said McNeil, talking about projects still in the planning stages and at the other end of the province.

"The honourable member is standing up defending the status quo, which has failed Nova Scotians."

After question period, NDP Leader Gary Burrill said outside the legislative chamber what was happening in Lower Sackville was symptomatic of a bigger problem. 

"This wouldn't be happening if we didn't have our whole emergency-care system in a flat-out crisis," Burrill told reporters.

"And the core of that, the core reason why the emergency-care system is in a flat-out crisis is that we have a fifth of our hospital beds full of people who aren't hospital patients," he said. "People waiting for nursing home placements.

"Our emergency rooms have nowhere to transfer their patients within the facilities so they're backed up up to and past the wall."

Burrill said the solution was to open more long-term-care beds.

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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