Senior bureaucrats cast doubt on two key NDP health-care promises yesterday.
During the election campaign in the spring the NDP promised to keep all rural ERs open as well as open up the Cobequid Community Health Centre in Sackville 24 hours a day.
Yesterday Cobequid Centre vice-president Barbara Hall said they are currently only looking to extend service by an hour or two, rather than round the clock.
“Whether it should immediately go to 24/7, I’m not sure about that,” Hall said. “But I think we really should be looking at can we keep the centre open for a few more hours in the evening.”
Deputy health minister Kevin McNamara said some rural ERs may also have to be closed to provide service. He pointed to a possible merger between two ERs in Digby and Annapolis.
“They’re in a situation where they don’t have a staff to keep both going and they’re very close together,” he said. “How do you come up with a system to ensure care for the individuals in those communities?”
Opposition parties pounced on the comments, saying the government had made promises it can’t keep.
“We’d all like to say that all emergency rooms stay open all the time. That is what people want to hear,” said Liberal health critic Diana Whalen. “I think they were being flippant almost in doing that because they hadn’t done their research.”
Former Tory health minister Chris d’Entremont said the NDP has been “making promises they can’t keep.”
Premier Darrell Dexter said the NDP has not abandoned its promises. He said the government is still working on fixing the rural ER problem that has “haunted health departments” for years, but it won’t happen overnight.
“What (McNamara) said is that it’s very difficult and it will take time,” Dexter said. “That’s exactly what we’ve been saying right from the very beginning.
“It’s not going to be an easy thing to do. But this is what we’re dedicated to. It’s a commitment we made.”
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