Protesters rallying for better healthcare services in North Sydney
Published Sunday, September 17, 2017 8:13PM ADT
Protesters in North Sydney gathered in front of the Northside General Hospital to rally for better healthcare services in the area Sunday.
The hospital’s emergency room has been closed on evenings and weekends due to a lack of doctors who can fill shifts.
Rally-goers say they’re fearful the lack of medical services could lead to the closure of the hospital entirely.
“It's not fair,” says protest organizer Lisa Bond. “People here can't afford to lose anything else. Our emergency room isn't open other than eight or seven hours a day. We're often closed on the weekends.”
Northside General sees about 10,000 patients per year and its closures have caused longer wait times at the island’s largest hospital, the Cape Breton Regional, which is a half-an-hour drive away in Sydney.
Bond says the extra minutes it takes to get to a doctor could be the difference between life and death for her son who has health issues.
“There’s been nights, white knuckle drives to the regional because we can’t get into Northside because they’re closed,” she says. “That’s not right, it’s scary for him, and it’s terrifying as a parent.”
Area residen Martha Ross says she thinks the government needs to intervene before the situation gets worse.
“Here we are in the latter part of 2017, in fear of our healthcare and future care.” Ross says. “We need our government to realize just how important our Northside Hospital is too all.”
The Nova Scotia government said it has recruited 16 new doctors to the island, but protesters say they feel they’re losing more services than they’re gaining.
“They might as well close the causeway. We have nothing. We have people here that need the work. We haev people here depending on it. We have our seniors, our elderly," says area resident Debbie Milley.
Both Glace Bay and New Waterford hospitals have also had their share of temporary emergency room closures this year.
Nova Scotia PC MLA Eddie Orrell says the regional hospital wasn’t built to handle the services of five hospitals in Cape Breton.
“It was meant to handle the closure of St. Rita’s Hospital and the city hospital,” Orrell says. “So they don't have the physical space or the people to man that.”
Sunday’s protest wasn’t the first time people have spoken out about the lack of health care services on the island.
In May, there was a rally led by physicians asking for a meeting with the health minister, but they say that hasn't happened yet.
Protesters say the merger of nine health districts into one is another issue and the large organization isn't agile enough to respond to local healthcare needs.
“I hope the government pays attention,” says Bond. “The doctors already spoke out, the people are speaking out now and we're not going to take it anymore.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.