STRAIT AREA: A group of residents concerned about the state of health care in Cape Breton held a protest late last week.
On November 16, Capers 4 Healthcare marched across the Canso Causeway just before noon. The group was scheduled to board buses to protest at the constituency office of Antigonish MLA and Minister of Health and Wellness, Randy Delorey, in Antigonish that afternoon but that was cancelled due to the weather.
One of the organizers of the protest, Lisa Bond, said the group started two years ago in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) with small rallies, and the group has since tried unsuccessfully to contact Premier Stephen McNeil and successive health ministers.
“We’ve been trying to make contact with the health minister, with Stephen McNeil, trying to get somebody to answer our questions,” Bond said. “We haven’t been able to get any answers, no responses to e-mails, phone calls. They came down here and announced they were closing the hospitals, they wouldn’t even take questions then. So we’re going to them.”
Bond says the group has many unanswered questions for the premier and the minister.
“We want to know about the hospital closures, the timelines, what they’re doing to get family doctors here, why doctors are being turned away rather than being hired when we have such a shortage, the wait times for specialists, lack of specialists,” Bond noted. “There’s zero for mental healthcare on Cape Breton Island. If our kids have any mental health issues, they get shipped to the IWK because there’s nobody here to treat them. [Also] nursing home beds, you name it.”
Bond says Capers 4 Healthcare has gained about 4,000 members on its Facebook page since it was formed and has members from Richmond and Victoria counties, in addition to the bulk of its membership which resides in the CBRM.
According to the group, they are fighting against the announced closure of Cape Breton community hospitals, the loss of emergency room services, the doctor shortage, any loss of healthcare services, increased travel and wait times for care, and the lack of transparency from the provincial government.
Because of the gravity of those issues, Bond says the group is perplexed by the refusal of provincial officials to even talk with them.
“[Delorey] won’t meet with us and even e-mails and phone calls are going without any kind of response,” Bond said, adding that she contacted his office every day for six months, with no response.
“We’re definitely being ignored.”
Along with getting the attention of provincial officials, Capers 4 Healthcare is also trying to raise public awareness.
“We want answers, we need to know what’s going to happen down here,” Bond said. “There’s so many stories.”