In the lead up to the 2013 provincial election this October, Nova Scotia’s three main political parties have described their levels of commitment to key measures that would improve access to health care and the overall health and wellbeing of Nova Scotians. This past September, party leaders were asked by the Nova Scotia Federation of Community Health Centres to respond to a single election question focused on the need to address the lack of policy support and the second-class funding status of Nova Scotia’s frontline healthcare services. The question read:
If elected to form the next Government of Nova Scotia, what is your party’s commitment to developing a provincial policy framework for Community Health Centres (CHCs), and to implementing an equitable, core funding agreement for all existing CHCs?
The question was premised on evidence demonstrating that compared to other provinces across Canada, CHCs and the patients they serve in Nova Scotia have been seriously neglected by successive provincial governments. This has caused not only a crisis in recruitment and retention of physicians, nurses, counselors and other care providers in communities throughout the province, but also in a significant missed opportunity to improve the health of Nova Scotians and the cost-effectiveness of the province’s health system.
Although all three political parties stopped short of making measurable commitments to address the second-class funding status of CHCs throughout the province, the Nova Scotia Federation of Community Health Centres expressed optimism based on the fact that all political parties have acknowledged that there is a problem.
“Step one is to acknowledge that there is a major problem and we’re pleased that all three political parties have recognized that our province needs a policy framework and equitable funding for frontline healthcare services, including Community Health Centres,” stated the Federation’s Chair, Kathy Blois. “This positive first step means that regardless of whom forms the next provincial government, a firm commitment has been made to negotiate a policy framework and a fair funding model for Nova Scotia’s communities and their CHCs.”
Community Health Centres are multidisciplinary primary health care settings that provide care and support to populations through collaborative teams of family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, mental health counselors, therapists, dietitians and other care providers. Not only do CHCs provide this team-based care and support, they reach out into the community to address local factors that affect the health of individuals, families and the community as a whole, working “upstream” to prevent illness and to help reduce avoidable costs in other parts of the health system like hospital emergency departments.
“The commitment to eliminating the second class status of Community Health Centres in Nova Scotia is not only important to the communities they serve,” concluded Blois. “It’s also a financial and political imperative if we want to prevent illness and reduce the major financial costs we currently experience due to avoidable pressures on our hospitals and other parts of the healthcare system.”
NSFCHC will be working with local and provincial partners throughout Nova Scotia over the coming days to inform Nova Scotians about the political parties’ respective commitments to these critical issues. This awareness-building campaign is a central component of the Federation’s efforts to “shift the conversation” and to engage Canadians and governments around the need to transform our current illness-treatment systems to a true “health system”, with emphasis on policy and investments that keep Canadians healthy in the first place.
Read responses below from the Nova Scotia Liberal, NDP and PC parties.