Nova Scotia unions react to Liberals’ under spending on health

Click to play video 'Political fallout after Global News reveals liberals are under spending in health by tens of millions of dollars' Political fallout after Global News reveals liberals are under spending in health by tens of millions of dollars
WATCH ABOVE: Unions representing some of Nova Scotia's health care workers react to a Global News investigation showing the Liberals are under spending on hospital infrastructure by half. Global's legislative reporter Marieke Walsh has the latest.

Nova Scotia’s biggest health care unions say the Liberal government’s under spending on hospital infrastructure has an impact on health care.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union and the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union are both speaking out after a Global News investigation revealed the Liberals are underspending on hospital bricks and mortar by half.

“You have to be able to deliver care and in order to deliver care, you have to have a place that’s safe to work in,” Joan Jessome, NSGEU president, said.

The Victoria General Hospital is a clear sign that more money should be spent on hospital infrastructure across the province, rather than less, Jessome said.

“We don’t have water you can drink, they’ve got issues with infestations with rodents and bugs, they also have, you know, windows that don’t open, they have flooding constantly, they have ceilings that come in, they have asbestos, and the list goes on.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: N.S. Health Authority says it doesn’t have enough money for repairs

Speaking on Global News Morning, NSNU president Janet Hazelton said the numbers are “disappointing.”

“To tell us there is no money and then to underspend by half is fairly significant in my view,” Hazelton said.

Since 2013, the government’s three budgets promised to spend $146 million on hospital infrastructure, however, only $72.6 million was spent. On average the under spend is higher than the previous NDP government. Under the NDP, underspending on hospital infrastructure averaged 10 per cent per year, compared to the 50 per cent under spent by the Liberals.

The spending shortfall comes in conjunction with a number of hospital and health facility projects languishing on the capital plan for years. Since 2011, renovations and expansions have been promised in Shelburne, Aberdeen, and the South Shore, however, there’s been little movement in the proceeding five years.

During Question Period, Premier Stephen McNeil said the government is “committed” to the projects but there have been “delays, whether it’s been through design” or construction.

However, the NDP says if the projects are all still going ahead, the government should be saving the money for those projects rather than spending it elsewhere.

“We don’t see any proof” that money is being rolled over or designated for certain projects, NDP leader in the house Marian Mancini said.

Story continues below advertisement

Asked Friday if he was satisfied with the progress on hospital infrastructure projects, health minister Leo Glavine said “absolutely.” He said the department’s goal is to make sure there is no duplication in the health care system between nearby facilities.