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Meeting reveals major frustrations with lacking healthcare on Digby’s islands

Around 65 people gathered and spoke at the Sept. 19 meeting on continuing health care in Freeport for people living in Brier Island, Long Island and Digby Neck areas now that they are without a nurse practitioner. Andy Moir, seated in the front row, was one of those who spoke.
Around 65 people gathered and spoke at the Sept. 19 meeting on continuing health care in Freeport for people living in Brier Island, Long Island and Digby Neck areas now that they are without a nurse practitioner. Andy Moir, seated in the front row, was one of those who spoke.

FREEPORT, NS – Frustrations were evident as dozens of people attended and spoke at a September 19 meeting addressing Freeport’s vacant nurse practitioner position.

Fraser Mooney, Communications Manager, Joanne Wentzell, Director of Primary Health Care and Melanie Mooney, Manager of Primary Health Care hosted the meeting on behalf of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Nearly each of the approximate 65 people present spoke, as frustration turned to anger over the situation.

“Why the h*** are we here, doing this again?” asked Tom Frook, a community member and outspoken critic of the lacking healthcare for the area.

 

Lack of notice and delay in services

This is the fourth time the community has gone without services.

Members from the Nova Scotia Health Authority hosted the meeting, which sought to give people answers on what care currently exists for them as the authority works to replace their nurse practitioner.

The announcement that their former nurse practitioner had been let go by the NSHA was received by the community in the form of notices on orange paper tacked in various public boards around the village of Freeport, on Long Island.

This lack of communication on behalf of the health authority made many angry, including Frook, since six weeks have passed and notice for the open position has yet to be posted, internally or externally.

Wentzell confirmed she expects the position to be posted this week.

“Why does it take six weeks?” asked Gwen Wilson, an area resident.

“What specific reasoning is there for it to take so long?”

Melanie Mooney said to due unspecified union prodecures, time is taken to review positions before posting openings, and a typical period of four weeks before posting is normal.

“We’ve absolutely taken too long with posting notice for this position, and I’m very sorry for that. It’s been too long,” she said.

“I feel like this meeting and the answer to my question were a complete waste of time. That was not an answer, that was just a general statement,” said Wilson.

“There’s no rationale, including procedure, that explains six weeks.”

Another woman at the meeting echoed Wilson’s statement.

“Sickness and death don’t wait around,” she said.

 

Tom Frook stands up as he speaks about his healthcare concerns. “Your patches and repairs are nonsensical, from the point of view of a senior person,” he said.

Getting to Digby not as easy as it sounds

Wentzell specified that confirmed interim solutions to healthcare access are two nurse practitioners in Digby who will host regular clinics on Thursdays at the Islands Health Centre, same-day bookings every Wednesday at the Digby and Area Health Services Centre, and newly hired Dr. David Lapierre from Digby, who will see only patients who are without a nurse practitioner or family doctor.

Several people pointed out the majority of these options require travel to Digby.

“Your patches and repairs are nonsensical, from the point of view of a senior person,” said Frook, himself a senior.

“There are many folks in these parts that simply cannot afford or are unable to travel to Digby. What are they supposed to do with this?”

Others expressed worry these Digby-centred solutions might mean a shutdown of the Islands Health Centre.

“I can tell you we are very much committed to keeping the health centre in use,” said Wentzell.

 

Community could be the answer: Moir

Before the current system was established, the Freeport community got together and proposed a very unique system for handling healthcare needs in their area – a nurse practitioner working alongside specially-trained paramedics, to respond to the rural communities.

Fraser Mooney, Communications Manager, Joanne Wentzell, Director of Primary Health Care and Melanie Mooney, Manager of Primary Health Care hosted the meeting on behalf of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

But that control was centralized as the health authority amalgamated all local branches into one in Halifax on April 1, 2015.

“Everything has been centralized and communities can no longer effect the change they need at a local level,” said Wilson.

Moir argues the model in Freeport helped create the current collaborative care approach the health authority currently preaches, and said were it put to the community, a solution would be found again.

“This community has been abandoned by the people we trusted most – our health authority. Had it involved our community, this crisis would have been completely avoided,” he said.

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