Nova Scotia

Protesters shut down Canso Causeway over pending hospital closures

The Canso Causeway was shut down for about an hour Friday as a couple hundred protesters marched to mainland Nova Scotia from Cape Breton.

Tory MLA Eddie Orrell among those who attended the protest

About 200 people braved the snowy weather to walk across the causeway to protest the lack of consultation on the impending closure of community hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford. (Capers 4 Healthcare/Facebook)

The Canso Causeway was shut down for about an hour Friday as a couple hundred demonstrators marched to mainland Nova Scotia from Cape Breton.

They were protesting the provincial government's lack of consultation on the impending closure of community hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford.

Ronald Crowther, an organizer of the protest, said about 200 people walked across the causeway, followed by three chartered buses and dozens of personal vehicles.

He said Cape Bretoners have asked Premier Stephen McNeil and Health Minister Randy Delorey to come to the island and spell out their plans, but Crowther said no one in the government is listening.

"People are frustrated," he said. "People are kind of left in limbo. All they really know right now is that two community hospitals are closing and there's an extreme physician shortage.

"So we're hoping they take notice of this, that we're angry, and they come and talk to us at some time."

Closures announced months ago

McNeil announced the hospital closures in June, promising to build new long-term care facilities and community clinics in place of the older facilities.

The government has also said it plans to expand hospitals in Sydney and Glace Bay to accommodate acute care beds and emergency services for the region.

The province promised to "immediately" start a planning process that would include local input, but that process hasn't yet started.

Health-care officials say they are still putting together a project management team to lead the planning process.

'We don't really know the plan'

Crowther said the government has promised to beef up other facilities after it closes two hospitals, but no one knows what to believe.

"The biggest thing is we don't really know the plan," he said. "We don't know the timeline. We don't know when these renovations are going to take place or anything.

"We do know the Northside and New Waterford [hospitals] are going to lose emergency services and we're not going to accept that. If anything, we're asking for an increase in services."

Weather cuts short protest

When protesters arrived at the causeway, it was cold and windy, and light snow flurries had started falling.

Crowther and other organizers called off a planned trip to Delorey's constituency office in Antigonish after the weather worsened.

Eddie Orrell, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Northside-Westmount, attended the protest. One of the hospitals set to close is in his riding.

He said people are upset with the shortage of family doctors and severe shortages of specialists such as psychiatrists.

Announcing hospital closures without any community dialogue just makes matters worse, said Orrell.

"I'm hoping that we get a good turnout and that people will stand up and listen and realize that there is a real crisis here and we need something to deal with it."
 

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

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