Cape Bretoners came out in droves along the Canso Causeway on Friday to let the provincial government know they want and need better access to health care.
The protesters temporarily blocked the only link connecting Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia in order to ensure their voices were being heard.
“We have hospital closure, we have a lack of physicians, we can’t retain physicians,” said organizer Lisa Bond. “The north side doesn’t even have a walk-in clinic. We have nothing.”
In June, the Nova Scotia government announced plans to close two hospitals on the island and focus instead on enhancing two others. The announcement was met with boos at the time, as Cape Breton Island has some of the longest wait times for health services and procedures in the province.
For those protesting on Friday, they feel Cape Breton needs more resources – not fewer.
“People don’t deserve to have to travel to a hospital, especially old people, half an hour and then sit and wait there for six, seven, eight hours,” says PC MLA Eddie Orrell.
WATCH: Nova Scotia announces plan to close hospitals in Cape Breton
Nova Scotia Health Minister says he understands how important health care is to Cape Bretoners, adding that his government is listening to those concerns.
“What we’ve heard from Cape Bretoners is the current health-care system isn’t meeting their needs,” said Delorey. “We’ve been engaging to understand what is needed, and we’re continuing to do that work through the functional planning stage.”
“We’ve been very clear that we are investing in infrastructure renewal for health care in Cape Breton. This is something we’re also doing in the Halifax area with a next-generation project there, and the Cape Breton redevelopment project.”
Delorey says work is ongoing with recruitment initiatives and that government has made “numerous” changes over the last year.
But protesters say they want more from the government.
“They came into Cape Breton, announced closures at two big hospitals and they walked away without giving any answers,” says protester Gordon Macdonald.
The protest was originally meant to continue in Antigonish at Health Minister Randy Delory’s constituency office, but that got changed on account of the weather.
Protesters do say, however, that they’ll continue to fight to make their message heard.
— With files from Alicia Draus