Let’s listen and work together to improve health care

This morning, I attended the annual meeting of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Having worked as a communications consultant to many health care professionals and organizations over the past 12 years, I have always paid close attention to health care delivery in our community and our province. That experience gave me a useful perspective when I met with voters in Halifax Citadel-Sable Island during the recent election campaign, including countless doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) is only two years old and it has borne much of the criticism about the performance of our health care system in recent years. From time to time, I found this criticism to be somewhat unfair as the NSHA was created by Stephen McNeil’s government and ultimately we must hold our elected governments accountable for the decisions made by public bodies. You can judge for yourself by reading the 2016-2017 annual report issued by the NSHA at www.nshealth.ca

I was encouraged to hear volunteer board chair Steve Parker, a former business partner of mine, speak with passion about the need to listen and heed the calls from those who are seeking change. There is progress being made in improving health care, but we can’t ignore the fact that many Nova Scotians, and many health care professionals, believe our system is in crisis. They must be listened to and brought to the table to be part of the solution.

It was also great to see two health care professionals who are now MLAs ask clear questions of the NSHA, reflecting the reality they see in their respective communities. New Progressive Conservative Health critic Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, a registered nurse and small businessperson who is the MLA for Cumberland North, asked about the lack of a physician at the collaborative care centre in Pugwash in her small town and rural constituency. Meanwhile, physiotherapist turned PC MLA Barb Adams asked about the lack of any doctors in her growing, suburban constituency of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. She also asked about the difference between the NSHA’s data showing a significant drop in home care wait times and her own experience that indicates these waits persist.

This is the benefit of having new MLAs elected to speak out, ask the questions that need to be asked and hold those in positions of authority accountable.

Politics aside, we need our health care system to change for the better. And we need those on the front lines who know the system inside and out to have a much stronger voice in how decisions are made. As Michael Decter, a former Deputy Minister of Health and Chair of Patients Canada (www.patientscanada.ca) noted in a speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, we can either engage doctors and other health care professionals at the beginning of the process or we will end up hearing from them – and many others – in much larger gatherings as they express their dissatisfaction.

Let’s work together to get it right!