Nova Scotia

Politics are behind Cape Breton hospital closures, PC health critic says

Eddie Orrell said the only reason he can see for closing facilities in New Waterford and North Sydney is that they are in opposition ridings.

'I think it's disgusting that they're playing politics with people's health'

Eddie Orrell, the PC health critic, says the decision by the provincial Liberals to close two hospitals in Cape Breton looks like politics to him. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Opposition politicians say Nova Scotia Liberal government plans to close community hospitals in New Waterford and North Sydney are purely politics.

On Monday, the government announced plans to replace the two aging hospitals with new collaborative care centres and long-term care facilities.

The acute-care hospital beds will be redistributed to the community hospital in Glace Bay and the regional hospital in Sydney.

Hospital ridings

The Glace Bay hospital is in Liberal cabinet minister Geoff MacLellan's riding, and the regional hospital is in Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, which is held by Alfie MacLeod of the Progressive Conservatives.

But the regional hospital also borders Sydney-Whitney Pier, which is held by Liberal cabinet minister Derek Mombourquette.

Eddie Orrell represents the Northside-Westmount riding, which includes the Northside General Hospital in North Sydney, and is the PC health critic. He said the only reason he can see for closing facilities in New Waterford and North Sydney is that they are in opposition ridings.

'I think it's disgusting'

"They're going to take health care out of North Sydney and New Waterford and put it in Glace Bay and Sydney," Orrell said. "It looks to me like it's political more than anything.

"I think it's disgusting that they're playing politics with people's health."

The Northside General Hospital in North Sydney will be closed. (CBC)

Tammy Martin, the NDP health critic who represents Cape Breton Centre, which includes the New Waterford hospital, said it appears the Liberals are favouring their own ridings.

"I don't like to think that that's how we make our decisions, but, obviously, the Liberal cabinet ministers are the ones who are being rewarded and/or are getting expansions to their services," she said.

Premier says politics not a factor

Premier Stephen McNeil said politics played no part in the decision.

"The easiest thing politically to do would have been to walk away," he said. "But successive governments have done that. This is actually the right thing for this community and for our province."

The province of Nova Scotia announced Monday that it would be closing two hospitals in Cape Breton Regional Municipality and adding to two others. (Google Maps)

McNeil said the regional hospital should be where the province makes its major investments. The New Waterford and North Sydney hospital buildings are older than the one in Glace Bay.

"It had nothing to do with the electoral pattern of the people in this city, or this province," McNeil said.

Studies back up decision

Several government studies have shown the move is the right thing to do, and health-care providers agree, he said.

Mombourquette said he's excited about the Liberal plan to expand the Cape Breton Cancer Centre at the regional hospital, which is not in, but is near, his riding. He's looking forward to planned investments in collaborative care and long-term care buildings in the communities where hospitals will close.

He said the buildings housing the New Waterford and Northside hospitals are at the end of their useful lives, while the Glace Bay hospital is newer, is in good shape and has room to expand.

Premier Stephen McNeil was booed in Cape Breton Monday over his government's decision to close two hospitals and expand two others. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"We have an opportunity to reshape health care right across the board and we're going to do that by new facilities in New Waterford and North Sydney to support the care for patients, and some major redevelopments in some buildings vis-a-vis the Cape Breton Regional Hospital ... and in Glace Bay (which) still has structural life," said Mombourquette.

Read more stories at CBC Nova Scotia

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 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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