Nova Scotians must accept dramatic changes to maximize the safety of its people

Opinion

An open letter to Nova Scotians:

We are in stressful times. COVID-19 has all Nova Scotians concerned.

I am sure no one feels the stress more than our premier and chief medical officer. I personally want to thank both of them, and all health care professionals, who are working tirelessly to keep us safe.

Good work is being done, but COVID-19 poses unprecedented risk, and that risk is higher in Nova Scotia, where 20 per cent of our population is 65 or older, as compared to 16 per cent on a national level. The federal Minister of Health has said that between 30 and 70 per cent of Canadians may contract this virus. It is potentially 20 times more lethal than the flu and is highly contagious. We must act proactively and decisively.

While many drastic measures have been undertaken, more decisive action is required. I am urging the Government of Nova Scotia to immediately:

1. Call on the Federal Government to change the EI program to provide benefits to symptomatic employees presently faced with the impossible decision of staying home or getting paid. Those benefits must also be extended to the self-employed.

2. Given the warnings of the chief medical officer to avoid attending hospitals and doctor’s offices unless absolutely necessary, immediately expand the ability of doctors to bill MSI for providing additional emergency services over the phone. This would lessen the risk of exposure to both our health care providers and their patients.

3. The immediate waiver of any fees for retired physicians to renew their licences. Their skills can be leveraged as any telehealth platforms are implemented. Specifically, healthcare professionals reactivated can help staff 811 and any other pre-screening lines.

4. The immediate closure of all public schools for 28 days.

5. Halting all non-essential travel into the province by air and screening those entering. Airport screening must be set up immediately.

7. Establish daily communications, including media briefings, from Public Health Officials to better prepare Nova Scotians and provide confidence to the public.

There will be a significant economic and societal cost to these measures. The risk, however, to the lives of Nova Scotians means that we must accept dramatic changes to our ordinary lives in order to maximize the safety of our people.

We will do better together. All Nova Scotians need to follow the advice of Public Health and do their part in practicing social distancing, self-isolation and quarantines as recommended.

Tim Houston

Leader, Progressive Conservative

Party of Nova Scotia