Nova Scotia

Provincial health authority pledges improved public engagement

The provincial health authority’s board chair says they’re working to improve public engagement after feedback suggested it wasn’t good enough.

Interviews happening now for new president and CEO

Health authority board chair Frank van Schaayk and CEO Janet Knox at the organization's annual general meeting in Truro. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority's board chair says they're working to improve public engagement after feedback suggested it wasn't good enough.

Frank van Schaayk talked about the organization's updated strategic plan, which covers 2019-22, during the health authority's annual general meeting Wednesday in Truro.

While the board considered creating an entirely new document, van Schaayk said they concluded there is still lots of work to do putting the existing plan, which also focuses on person-centred care and a healthy workforce, into place.

Following the course on things such as trying to bring down wait times and improve programs made sense, said van Schaayk, but it also became clear communicating with the public had to get better. He used the example of hospital redevelopment projects in Cape Breton to show how the health authority is trying to improve.

"From that announcement on June 26 last year to present time, we've had over 300 meetings in that community to help educate people, to get their input, to help folks understand what the development is going to look like."

Focusing on sustainability

Part of the organization's focus right now is on improving sustainability, which van Schaayk and health authority CEO Janet Knox said often means finding new ways to do things.

On Tuesday, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Dunbar warned the legislature's health committee that the system risked becoming unsustainable as it faced a "tsunami" of oncoming demand.

Van Schaayk said Dunbar's comments, while "dramatic," are in line with what many people have been saying and observing for some time, particularly with the rise in chronic diseases.

He said finding ways to stretch health-care budgets to place more emphasis on preventative medicine is something that must happen.

"I don't think there's any question that we have to see it as possible and have that mandate to meet that sustainability challenge."

Knox pointed to the Inspired program, an outreach program that pairs people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a team of professions that, through education, helps them manage their disease and has shown dramatically improved outcomes for both patients and the system.

"Seventy-five per cent reduction in hospital admissions, in emergency visits and, if they go to hospital, in their length of stay," she said.

Search for new CEO ongoing

Wednesday marked Knox's final AGM as CEO. She's scheduled to retire Aug. 30. Although interviews for the position are happening now, van Schaayk said it's not a certainty the new person will be ready to begin as soon as Knox retires.

"The guess would be that we'll need an interim [CEO], but that's not for sure."

He said provisions are in place now should the role need to be filled on a temporary basis.

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at