N.S. hospital closures delayed by previous governments: McNeil

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WATCH: The decision to close two long-servicing Cape Breton hospitals is being defended by Premier Stephen McNeil who says reports over the past 20 years have indicated the changes are necessary. Jeremy Keefe reports.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is calling his government’s plan to close two Cape Breton hospitals in line with the region’s priorities, despite the poor reception provided by locals attending Monday’s announcement.

READ MORE: N.S. officials heckled as they announce plan to close two hospitals in Cape Breton, expand two others

“This has been a 20-year conversation with the communities in Cape Breton. It’s been a 20-year conversation with the different levels of bureaucracy in and around health care,” explained McNeil.

McNeil points to a number of reports over the years suggesting provincial health-care services required a major overhaul.

In 2016, Auditor General Michael Pickup released a report indicating the province’s aging hospitals were in need of renovations to adapt to changing health care needs.

McNeil says their plan follows recommendations ignored by previous governments.

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“What we’ve come up with is what we believe is the model that both reflects what we’ve heard, which was access to primary health care, and at the same time bolstering the emergency services in and around the regional and rural hospitals,” he explained.

“What we had in this area was four emergency rooms within 30 minutes of each other,” McNeil said.

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill says that while Collaborative Emergency Care Centres were part of a 2010 report, closing emergency rooms was not.

“When you have a problem, you don’t say ‘OK, things are difficult, we have a challenge, we’re going to shut it down,'” said Burrill. “That is all that the government has done.”

“That’s not what we do when we have infrastructure challenges and infrastructure problems,” Burrill explained. “What we do is make investments.”

The provincial government isn’t providing cost estimates at this time, nor are they speculating about how long the development process will take.

McNeil said that when requests for proposals go out, information concerning how much will be spent will be provided to the public and that the planning stage could take about a year.

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