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Health crisis working group gaining momentum says Shelburne Mayor

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SHELBURNE, N.S. – The Rural Nova Scotia Health Crisis Working Group is gaining momentum in their efforts to bring attention to the issues facing the health-care system in the province and the need for action to better the situation.

The group, which met on June 12 in Shelburne, will be putting the pressure on the Nova Scotia government this fall to address the issues and fix the problems, with plans for a provincial day of action on rural health care leading up to the opening of the House of Assembly, and opposition days once the house is in session, where opposition MLAs will keep up the pressure.

An outreach event in Metro Halifax, a social media campaign and a resolution to be presented at the Federation of Nova Scotia Municipalities (FNSM) annual conference are also in the works.

“We want to see someone making a real sincere effort to fix the problem,” says Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall, who chairs the working group.

The provincial day of action will likely be held in late September or early October, the mayor says.

“What we are hoping is that groups in every community that wishes, and certainly the ones who are more negatively impacted by this health-care crisis, will join us,” she says, saying they’re being asked to stage rallies in front of MLA offices “in protest of the situation.”

Mayor Mattatall says the working group will be contacting municipal units across the province “to try and encourage them to get involved.”

“We’re hoping to co-ordinate with different areas that are on the same page with the same end goals, she says.

The working group, which has been meeting monthly since being formed in February, “has heard from residents, medical practitioners and local representatives concerning the ongoing doctor shortage, frequent ER closures, lack of long-term care spaces and other worrying strains on our health-care system; all clear indications of the deepening health crisis in Nova Scotia,” reads the letter being sent to municipal units across the province. “We are united in our recognition of the crisis and our call for the Government of Nova Scotia to: guarantee access to family doctors, decrease wait times, ensure access to services locally, provide ER service available 24/7, and to restore local decision making.”

Mayor Mattatall says the working group feels those five points cover all of the aspects of the crisis.

“It really isn’t just one thing,” she says. “If everyone had a family doctor that’s good, we want that, but that doesn’t mean the ER is going to be open 24/7. It doesn’t mean people will have local access to services, so we really see them all as interconnected and one of those things isn’t necessarily going to fix all the problems we see this crisis has created.”

When it comes to addressing the issues, Mattatall says two things she has found from talking to people across the province is that local decision making is key.

“Every community needs different things. It strikes me as relatively simple that you provide access to the services that support the demographic and geography of each community,” she says. “The other thing is really involving the doctors, the ones who were in the system when it was working and those in there now. Between the communities and the doctors, I think solutions can be found.”

ABOUT THE GROUP:

The Rural Nova Scotia Health Crisis Working Group consists of municipal representatives from the south shore and southwestern Nova Scotia, along with representatives of community organizations, members of the public and the Nova Scotia Health Coalition. The group has been meeting monthly to share updates on the ongoing health crisis, explore community-based solutions and to advocate for changes that will resolve the health-care crisis in rural communities.

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