Gathering support for public health care

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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Coalition recommends 100 new Nurse Practitioners

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The Nova Scotia Health Care Network wants people in Digby to stand up for public health care.

Kyle Buott, coordinator with the Nova Scotia health coalition, held a public forum in Digby Thursday, Nov. 15 to present the coalition’s ideas for “protecting, strengthening and extending” public health care.

"We are advocates against private health care which we see slowly creeping in,” said Buott “The federal government wants to make $36 billion in cuts to health care and privatization will be the proposed solution to make up for these cuts.”

Currently the federal government provides funding for public health care to the provinces based on the 2004 Health Accord. Negotiations are already underway on the 2014 Health Accord and Buott says none of the premiers outside of the four Atlantic provinces are going to fight the federal government on the proposed cuts.

He says the health care coalition plans to fight the cuts using people power—by holding open houses like the Digby meeting around the province.

“Community by community, doorstep by doorstep, conversation by conversation,” he says. “It’s about talking to our neighbours, families, co-workers and friends that we’ll build pressure for change here in Nova Scotia.”

Buott is doing presentations in Bridgewater, Halifax, Yarmouth, Kentville, Truro and Glace Bay.

Besides looking for support to stop the cuts, Buott also brought a list of 13 improvements the coalition feels the provincial government could make to health care spending here.

Among them they suggest the province set aside $10 million to hire 100 nurse practitioners.

“They can see 80 per cent of the cases a doctor sees,” said Buott.

Buott says $4.4 million to provide basic dental care for all children is a cheap way to make a huge step forward.

The coalition would like to see $40 million go into 10 new community health centres.

And they would eliminate fee-for-service payment for physicians.

Buott says Nova Scotia is already a leader in alternative payment plans—30 per cent of Nova Scotian physicians are working on salary or block fees, whereby doctors are paid by the number of patients registered with their practice.

“This encourages them to take on more patients, it encourages them to hire more health care providers to work with them,” says Buott.

The coalition’s 13 recommendations would cost a total of $77 million or less than 2 per cent of the health care budget.

About 40 people came to the meeting at the Digby Regional High School on Thursday, Nov. 15. The warden of the municipality Linda Gregory, the town mayor Ben Cleveland, the municipality’s deputy CAO Gordon Wilson and several councilors were in attendance as were many who work in health care and also regular residents concerned about health care.

When asked for input on the challenges facing health care in Digby, almost everyone in the room mentioned the lack of doctors—an issue not directly addressed in Buott’s presentation.

He did say the coalition supports creating 10 seats at medical school and having the province pay the tuition for students from rural areas who agree to return to practice in rural Nova Scotia for five years.

Also check out a website by the University of British Columbia which is gathering information about the Health Accord renewal process

Organizations: Nova Scotia Health Care Network, Nova Scotia health coalition, Digby Regional High School University of British Columbia

Geographic location: Digby, Nova Scotia, Bridgewater Yarmouth Glace Bay Nova Scotian

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