Nova Scotia

Plans revealed for $100M expansion of Cape Breton Regional Hospital

While most of the 200 or so people who attended the announcement in Membertou expressed approval of the plan, others complained the expansion comes at the cost of closing community hospitals in New Waterford and Sydney.   

New building will house enlarged cancer centre, critical care units and emergency department

Construction is expected to start next year on a new building behind the hospital (seen here in blue) to house the cancer centre, as well as critical and emergency care. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Hospital will undergo a major development worth more than $100 million to expand the cancer centre, the emergency department and critical care units, the Nova Scotia government announced Monday.

While most of the 200 or so people who attended the announcement in Membertou expressed approval of the plan, others complained the expansion comes at the cost of closing community hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney.   

Health Minister Randy Delorey said the plan is to build a new 190,000-square-foot building behind the existing regional hospital in Sydney, with construction expected to start next year.

The project, he said, will improve health care in the region, which has seen a steady exodus of physicians and specialists and suffered from overcrowded ERs.

Protesters made themselves heard as Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey announced a $100-million expansion of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"This is about providing the care for today and into the future, so I'm very excited," said Delorey.

The Cape Breton Cancer Centre will more than double in size — growing to 65,000 square feet from 25,000 square feet. It will be able to handle nearly double the number of patients. 

ER to double in size, add 12 rooms

The critical care units will increase to 40,000 square feet from 12,500 square feet, and increase patient handling by about 50 per cent. The emergency department will double in size and have 46 exam rooms, up from 34.

The move will also bring diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays and ultrasound, into the emergency department.

The hospital redevelopment plan includes eventually expanding the community hospital in Glace Bay, as well. 

About 20 protesters, including Barb Chiasson, attended the announcement, saying their voices aren't being heard in the government's redevelopment plans. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

But community hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney will close and be replaced with long-term care facilities and community health centres.

About 20 protesters who are worried about emergency care outside of Sydney carried signs Monday and shouted questions at health-care officials.

"Do you not care about any of us in our communities here?" asked Barb Chiasson.

Gordon MacDonald, another protester, said the expansion plans are welcome, but people need better access to doctors right now.

Gordon MacDonald and other protesters took to the podium with questions for the health minister as a Cape Breton regional police office stood nearby. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"They're making this announcement and thumping themselves on the chest, all on the backs of the residents of the Northside community and the New Waterford community, and the closures and the services that we're going to lose in the end," MacDonald said.

Delorey acknowledged that people in North Sydney and New Waterford are upset, but he said the expansion of the regional hospital is just the first phase of changes coming to the region. 

He promised to visit other Cape Breton communities to announce redevelopment plans for their areas in the coming months.

In the meantime, the minister said the redesign of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital will help attract health-care professionals to the area.

"This is exciting progress for Cape Breton's largest health-care infrastructure project," he said. "It is transformational."

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 33 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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