As faculty strikes, N.S. Premier Tim Houston announces medical school for Cape Breton University
For the first time in a while, a Nova Scotia Premier gave his State of the Province address outside of Halifax.
Tim Houston wasted little time making the day's big announcement to the capacity crowd at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney.
The premier said the province will help open a medical school at Cape Breton University (CBU), the same post-secondary institution that saw faculty go on strike Friday. Houston didn’t get into specifics about funding for the medical school.
"By no later than fall 2025, there will be a medical school in Cape Breton,” Houston said, noting the memorandum of understanding is now in place between Dalhousie University and CBU. “They'll work together to get the campus here."
For CBU President and Vice-Chancellor David Dingwall, the opening of a medical school on the island is “a game-changer.”
“It’s an added solution to our health-care situation,” said Dingwall.
Dingwall said one of the biggest challenges will be to address building capacity. He added there are plans in the works to use existing space on and around campus.
With the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus moving to a new facility in downtown Sydney, Dingwall says CBU officials are “pretty well convinced” they could transform the building into the school of nursing and the school of social work. He’s also optimistic the facility can provide a 10,000-person clinic for the community.
The announcement received a standing ovation and some approval from Nova Scotia's opposition leader.
"Long-term, this may be able to help with doctor training and recruitment to rural areas,” said Liberal Leader Zach Churchill. “We do have to see a turn-around though in the statistics that we're seeing now."
The premier went on to address the state of health care and the province's broken emergency rooms, telling the crowd he will do whatever it takes to find a fix.
"[The] 2023 budget will give the full accounting of the cost expectations around health care,” Houston said. “But, there's big issues in the health-care system. Some of them are just structural things, some require financial investment. Whatever the root cause of it, we're focused on fixing it."
Dingwall said the new CBU medical school would graduate up to 30 students per year for the first six years. Part of the school's focus, he added, will be to train doctors to work in rural and Indigenous communities.
Meanwhile, Houston said the province will need federal help to fix health care. He said he plans to talk to the Prime Minister about it when he sees him next week.
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