Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Health Authority's 1st day won't mean change for patients

Patients and others who use health services in Nova Scotia will see no difference today as the new Nova Scotia Health Authority takes over from nine district health boards, according to the head of the new body.

CEO Janet Knox says patients will not notice any difference if they're scheduled for surgery or tests

Today is the first day for the newly created Nova Scotia Health Authority. (CBC)

Patients and others who use health services in Nova Scotia will see no difference today as the new Nova Scotia Health Authority takes over from nine district health boards, according to the head of the new body.

Health authority chief executive Janet Knox said most of the changes so far have been administrative, such as cutting the number of CEOs from nine to one, and eliminating 33 vice presidents and their assistants. Such moves will save the health system $5.5 million.

Knox said people will not notice any difference if they're scheduled for surgery or tests today.

While that is good news for patients, Progressive Conservative health critic Chris d'Entremont isn't impressed.

"To say nothing is going to change and it's going to be seamless is a bit of a cop-out in a way because they were originally selling this as we'll be able to offer better services to Nova Scotians," he said.

But Knox maintains it will mean better care. She cites as an example palliative care planning that will be done provincially, rather than each board looking at the question in their own bubbles.

Janet knox is chief executive of the new Nova Scotia Health Authority. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Former health minister and NDP health critic Dave Wilson said he is concerned about health administration being centralized in Halifax. 

"If the decisions are being made out of Halifax and there's an issue down in Shelburne County, for example, my concern is that they're not going to be heard, " he said.

"Nova Scotians are reasonable. They realize there can't be a CT in every community, but definitely access to appropriate care should be. My fear is with this amalgamation we're going to see the erosion of that."

Knox said the new authority will "stay connected at the community level and plan provincially." 

"We'll always still need to be looking at what are the local needs because there are some unique needs," she said.

"In this system we have continued with our 37 community health boards whose role it is at a local level to really have that connection to the community to help us understand the health needs of the local community."

Wilson pointed to the experience in Alberta, where they amalgamated health boards, as a reason for concern here in Nova Scotia. The Alberta government has recently announced plans for eight to ten operational districts as well as community advisory committees to support the health authority.

Knox said Alberta officials were very helpful and shared their lessons learned in advising Nova Scotia on the health board amalgamation. She said it is now moving to the model Nova Scotia has implemented.

"They helped us understand that we really needed to make sure you that stay close to the community."

Knox said it will take years to complete the amalgamation of the nine boards and "there will be challenges," but she is confident the changes will improve health care in the province.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

now