Randy Delorey, who was handed the prominent cabinet posting two months ago, spent Monday visiting a number of Cape Breton health-care facilities, including all four hospitals in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“This is about obtaining information,” said Delorey, who became health minister on June 15 when Premier Stephen McNeil shuffled his cabinet. Previously, Delorey had spent almost two years as the governing Liberals’ finance minister.
“The next phase of that is me getting out to meet people who are actually on the ground across the province and this is an important spot to stop in to talk to various health-care providers in our institutional settings like the hospitals and with other partners in the health-care system,” he said.
Delorey, who admitted he’s been on a steep learning curve since his appointment to the health portfolio, said that among other things he is hearing specific Cape Breton concerns about the province’s ongoing physician shortage and the unexpected emergency room closures that have become all too frequent in some local hospitals.
“There are needs and challenges in the emergency departments, particularly in our community hospital settings, and I have been hearing that often relates to staffing,” he said.
“The NSHA (Nova Scotia Healthy Authority) has been working really hard to really manage its staffing schedules.”
However, Cape Breton Centre NDP MLA Tammy Martin questioned the government’s desire to save older health care facilities such as the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital.
In a written release, Martin said the party is “concerned that the Liberals are trying to close New Waterford Consolidated Hospital by slowly removing all its services.”
“Conversations with people at the hospital and in the health authority lead me to believe there is growing pressure to reduce services and eventually close the New Waterford hospital,” said Martin, who cited the summer closure of the hospital’s Mobile Care Team, the fact that laboratory technician jobs are not being filled after retirements, and the installation of a new sprinkler system that she suggests could indicate the government may be trying to turn the New Waterford hospital into a long-term care facility.
But in a brief afternoon session with local media at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Delorey downplayed Martin’s concerns.
“I’m not sure where she’s coming from with that — I certainly followed up with the NSHA and they have assured me there is no foundation in those allegations,” said Delorey.
“They’re doing a sprinkler systems installation on the third floor of the facility — that is very clearly a safety investment need for that facility and there are also other renovations being done as part of the capital investment into the facility.”
Delorey said his foray into the halls of Cape Breton health facilities is just the beginning of a consultative process he plans to take across the province.