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Health-care rally held in New Waterford

Dr. Peter Littlejohn addresses concerns about a new health centre in New Waterford during a health-care rally Sunday.
Dr. Peter Littlejohn addresses concerns about a new health centre in New Waterford during a health-care rally Sunday.

NEW WATERFORD — About 100 people attended a rally to address concerns surrounding the future of New Waterford Consolidated Hospital after a new community health-care facility is built.

However, it was evident people are worried about more than just that.

The rally took place Sunday at the New Waterford Army/Navy club on Smith Street. At times it was heated as people brought up concerns over emergency room closures, shortages of nurses and doctors, issues with the 811 telephone health service and the cancellation of a mobile care team.

The biggest concern was the New Waterford hospital. Many people said they feared a new community health centre would mean less doctors and nurses for the hospital. Others worried it would result in the permanent closure of the hospital’s ER.

Tammy Martin, the NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre, organized the rally as a way for people to voice their concerns and get answers.

“How can we staff a new health centre if we can’t staff the emergency room now?” Martin asked to a roomful of applause.

Premier Stephen McNeil announced the go-ahead for the new health centre in April.

Dr. Peter Littlejohn is vice-chair of the New Waterford Community Health Board. He assured people the new health centre wouldn’t take staff from the hospital or result in the ER being closed.

“We raised our children here. We will keep on living here,” Littlejohn said.

Calling the new health centre a “state-of-the-art facility,” Littlejohn said it is a primary-care facility, not a secondary-care facility like the hospital.

“Primary-care staff will be people we bring with us. We won’t be taking staff away from the hospital,” he said while addressing a question from an audience member.

“A lot of the fears and concerns… are rather unfounded. We are not going to impact the hospital by having primary-care staff at the new centre,” Littlejohn said.

The new centre hopes to provide one place for many community organizations like doctor offices, Mental Health and Addiction Services, senior daycare and even a food bank.

Littlejohn said having a community health centre can help recruit doctors to the area.

“We are not going to attract new doctors here with our current facilities,” he said.

Littlejohn said construction on the new centre is slated begin in the spring.

Martin and some residents also brought up concerns over the closure of the mobile care team, a portable unit that can treat people in their homes when the New Waterford hospital ER is closed.

Others brought up inefficiencies with 811 service, which is supposed to help alleviate overcrowding at ERs by allowing people to talk to a nurse for medical advice.

One mother, whose daughter is severely asthmatic, pointed out every time she has phoned the service, she is told to go to the ER.

Martin said the rally, which she called a town hall meeting, is one of many she plans to hold in her constituency. These meetings will deal various issues, not just health care, she said.



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