Medical school ‘finally’ coming to Cape Breton by fall 2025: N.S. premier

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Medical school ‘finally’ coming to Cape Breton by fall 2025: premier
WATCH: Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston addressed a packed room in Cape Breton Friday for the annual State of The Province Address. Much of Houston’s comments were focused on health-care. His address also included an announcement about how the province will help train and keep more doctors in Nova Scotia. Callum Smith reports. – Jan 27, 2023

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has confirmed the province will be getting its second medical school.

Houston made the announcement in his State of the Province Address in Sydney, N.S., on Friday.

“The rumours are true,” Houston said. “By no later than Fall 2025, there will be a medical school in Cape Breton.”

This came just months after Cape Breton University began campaigning for support to open a medical school on the island.

In a Nov. 11 article, Global News reported the university consulted local physicians and over 80 community leaders over the past year who were supportive of the idea.

Gordon MacInnis, the university’s vice-president of finance and operations, said timing for a new medical campus was right.

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“We look forward to tabling some very innovative solutions to make a real impact not only for Cape Breton, but for rural areas of Nova Scotia,” MacInnis said in the November interview.

Read more: ‘Timing is right’: Cape Breton University campaigns to open medical campus

At the time, the Nova Scotia Health said in an email it “has been consulted and is collaborating with the university.”

Currently the only medical school in Nova Scotia is provided by Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The family doctor waitlist in Nova Scotia hit an all-time-high this month, with nearly 130,000 residents waiting for a primary care provider.

“The best way to address a doctor shortage is to train more doctors,” Houston said in the Friday speech, adding that a second campus is “finally happening.”

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He said the campus will be “focused on educating Nova Scotian students, more specifically focused on educating rural Nova Scotian students.”

David Dingwall, Cape Breton University president and vice-chancellor, said Friday he’s excited for what’s in store for the school.

“It’s transformational, it’s a gamechanger, it’s an added solution to our health-care situation,” Dingwall said.

He said there are big plans for when the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus moves into a new waterfront building in Sydney that’s under construction.

“We would make that the school of nursing, the school of social work and to be able to provide a 10,000-person clinic for our community.”

Read more: N.S. unveils emergency room plan, nurse practitioners to deliver care in ERs

Though the school will open no later than the fall of 2025, Houston said he will be pushing “extremely hard” for an even earlier date.

“Nova Scotians feel the urgency, I feel the urgency,” he said.

Houston said he hopes residents see the government working hard to address issues with the health care system, and that progress is being made.

The comments come three weeks of scrutiny following the recent deaths of two women in emergency rooms.

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Allison Holthoff, 37, died after a seven-hour wait at the Cumberland Regional Health Centre emergency department in Amherst, N.S., on Dec. 31, 2022. Just a day prior, 67-year-old Charlene Snow waited for seven hours at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital emergency department before giving up and going home, where she died shortly after.

Read more: ‘Shock, sadness, anger’: Another N.S. woman dies after 7-hour ER wait, family says

Houston said the province will work to get the families their answers. He acknowledged answers won’t bring the women back, but that those at the top are committed to ensuring those stories aren’t repeated again.

As for the cost, he said “whatever it takes.”

Houston said health care is a national issue, but said that Nova Scotia is lucky.

“We have the best health leadership team in the country and for sure, for sure, we have the best health minister.

“We have highly trained, compassionate, dedicated doctors, nurses and ally health-care professionals across the spectrum.”

Houston said the current system was not designed for Nova Scotia’s growing population and an aging population, adding that the government now must consider long-term solutions.

His plan, he said, is based only on “extraordinary growth.”

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— With files from Callum Smith.

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