Nova Scotia’s New Democrats promised Thursday to open more collaborative emergency centres to improve wait times for ambulances if the party is elected to govern on Aug. 17.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill, speaking on Day 20 of the provincial election campaign, pointed to the case of Anne MacPhee, a woman whose husband died after waiting 34 minutes for an ambulance – even though they lived three kilometres from a hospital in Halifax.
“(Premier) Iain Rankin and the Liberals have had eight years to fix the problems in health care and instead things have gotten worse,” Burrill said. “There is nothing more fundamental to emergency care than getting an ambulance on-site to someone in need.”
Burrill accused the incumbent Liberals of failing to fix the persistent problem during two terms in office. The NDP leader said this “failure of the health-care system” is costing people’s lives.
Collaborative emergency centres represent a novel way of providing enhanced primary and emergency care. They were introduced in Nova Scotia in 2011 by the former NDP government led by Darrell Dexter. The goal was to address gaps in rural access to emergency care.
A 2014 report found that Nova Scotia’s eight collaborative emergency centres were effective in dealing with the chronic, unplanned closures of emergency rooms in rural hospitals.
The centres offer patients same-day or next-day appointments with physicians and nurse practitioners who can handle most medical problems that aren’t life-threatening. They are open for extended hours during the day and most have paramedics and registered nurses working overnight with support from physicians over the phone.
Earlier this year, a study of Nova Scotia’s privately operated ambulance service found that ambulances spend too much time offloading patients at hospitals. The report, written by consultants with Fitch and Associates, also found ambulances are often tied up transferring patients between facilities.
The consultants said Nova Scotia’s current model doesn’t take advantage of the medical sophistication paramedics can provide because all patients who accept assistance must be transported to hospital.
During a campaign event Thursday, Burrill repeated his party’s pledges to reduce mental health wait times by opening 14 “same-day-next-day” mental health care centres and to ensure every senior in long-term care has their own room.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, both Rankin and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston joined Burrill to record an election roundtable discussion with CTV News.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.