Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Health care challenged

Opinion

Canadians have benefited from one of the best health care systems in the world.

It is different from the American system, where it is said one can get the best care money can buy and fewer of the free, government-funded services Canadians tend to take for granted.

Health care, however, is a dominating issue of people and governments in Nova Scotia and throughout the country. It commands about half the province’s annual budget and has compelled governments in more recent years to rein in health care costs that were seen to be rising at about five per cent a year.

The Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic is one of the victims of that fiscal restraint. It is closing on August 5 for roughly six weeks, and even then may not reopen.

Dr. Chris Elliott who, with Dr. Tom Park owns the walk-in-clinic, said there is no incentive for doctors to practise at the clinic while they’re paid less for their services. The province has shown its inference to that by not including walk-in doctors in the enhanced model being offered to other primary care provider office visits.

The New Glasgow clinic has been suffering under the weight of patients arriving with ever more complex health concerns. They wait for hours for service there and for many of them, the only other option is waiting for hours at the Aberdeen Hospital’s emergency department.

Dr. Elliott notes that 30 per cent of the clients visiting the clinic have no family physician.

Much discussion has surfaced around the need for more seats for students at medical schools in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. Fewer doctors mean fewer of them disposed to moving to Pictou County to practise their profession.

Part of the problem of too few medical graduates is money. Part of it pertains to the move away from nursing schools located at hospitals. We have added to registered nurses the positions of nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and continuing care assistants. But gaps in the system remain.

Readers may recall in February news of a collaborative family practice team workshop at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. It was among many scheduled by the Nova Scotia Health Authority in its effort to increase the number of collaborative health centres in the province. It has the potential to be a welcome game-changer in terms of how health care is delivered in Pictou County.

The Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic is not benefiting from the province’s health care reforms. It is a victim of bad policy and bad timing. It’s time for the province to supply the clinic with the human and other resources it needs so that it can function now until it is replaced by a better health delivery model.

Receiving health care is confusing enough without casting the clinic’s doctors and users to the four winds like this.