Protesters brave wet weather to raise concerns about Nova Scotia health care

A group made up largely of union leaders and members gathered outside Province House in the pouring rain Wednesday afternoon to bring attention to issues with the province’s health care system.

“We’re out here to let the [Stephen] McNeil government know that health care is in crisis,” said Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU).

“It’s time to start down a different path and bring some of the unions together to have discussions with government about [a] possible solution,” said Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

Among the issues being raised are a lack of doctors and nurses, a limited number of beds, limited access to primary care and limited ambulance availability.

Last year, the union representing paramedics started an online campaign called Code Critical. Whenever there is a limited number of ambulances available in a given zone, the union tweets out a notification — and it happens nearly every day.

Despite this ongoing campaign, IUOE Local 727 president Michael Nickerson says the provincial budget released last week did nothing to address the issue.

“There’s no real new money. Everything that’s been announced has already been announced previously,” he said.

“In particular with the ambulance services, there are $4.6 million earmarked for EHS, but that’s a contractual obligation with the contractor of the service.”

MacLean says he, too, was disappointed with the budget.

“There’s no new money for primary care. There was monies that are there for infrastructure that [were] already announced so those monies aren’t going to the current problem that we have right now,” he said.”

Some NDP MLAs also attended the rally and called on the government to take the issue more seriously.

MLA Tammy Martin sits on the province’s health committee, which was recently created to look into health-care issues, but she says she was disappointed in the lack of urgency.

“I suggested, raised the motion that we should meet every day; let’s meet every day,” she said.

“Whatever it takes to address this crisis and bring a [resolution] for Nova Scotians.”

Her motion was voted down, and the committee meets on a monthly basis.

The rally was organized by the NSGEU, and MacLean says he hopes the organization has made it clear to Premier Stephen McNeil’s government that health care is in crisis.

“There’s people out here who would otherwise be at home or otherwise be at work or whatever, but they felt it was important to get out here and tell the government the system is in peril,” MacLean said.

“We’re not going away,” added Nickerson. “We’re not happy with what’s happening in health care.”

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