March 5th, 2020

Neglect of public health care raises concerns about readiness for COVID-19

HALIFAX - The Liberal government's neglect of public health care services in Nova Scotia is undermining efforts to prepare for a possible COVID-19 outbreak. Emergency room closures, cuts to nursing homes, and a high occupancy rate of existing hospital beds will all undermine Nova Scotia’s efforts to contain and manage COVID-19 when it arrives.

“Most people will need to go to the emergency room to seek care in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, either because they don’t have a family doctor or because they can’t get a timely appointment. With emergency rooms already overcrowded or closed in many communities, it’s difficult to see how our health care system will handle the added burden from COVID-19,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

Under the Liberals, unscheduled emergency room closures have doubled.

The NDP has also been sounding the alarm on the pressure for hospital beds in the province. Up to twenty per cent of hospital beds are occupied by people waiting for transfer to long-term care. Last year, hospitals were functioning at 91 per cent bed occupancy.

“In other countries facing outbreaks we are seeing a huge number of admissions to hospital,” said Burrill. “With so many hospital beds occupied by people waiting for transfer to long-term care, there are few beds available for people who may require admission to hospital as a result of COVID-19.”

The NDP is focused on proposing solutions to address the health care crisis, including opening more long-term care beds to get patients out of hospital, restoring funding to nursing homes, and bringing in Physician Assistants to reduce pressure on emergency rooms and family doctors.