My first legislative sitting as an MLA has been a fascinating journey into the world of political baseball, where deflecting criticism is a full-time job for Liberal cabinet ministers.

We pitch ‘em, they bat ‘em. We want answers, they give us excuses. We ask them to defend their record, they attack ours. Is this really the way government should be approaching the business of serving the public, especially when it comes to their health?

This fall, as NDP Health and Wellness spokesperson, I had the opportunity to put a number of questions to Health Minister Randy Delorey. I asked him about issues affecting my constituents, such as the future of the New Waterford hospital and plans to build a community health centre. I asked him about issues affecting all Nova Scotians, and especially Cape Bretoners – ER closures, access to primary care, and the growing doctor shortage.

The talking points were plentiful. Clearly, the Liberal caucus has put a lot of thought into choosing language that downplays our province’s health care crisis and bolsters their weak health care record.

Meanwhile, there are 106,000 people in the province without a family doctor, we’re seeing continuing cuts to nursing homes, and wait lists for mental health and addictions services are unacceptably long and growing.

Despite the severity of the situation, the Liberals treat it like a game. They throw around phrases like “we’re working with health care providers across the province,” and “we continue to invest,” as they dodge the truth of the matter that I am hearing so clearly from people on the ground.

If it wasn’t clear to the Liberals that we were in a crisis situation, the story of Stella Freda Young should have been a wake-up call. Early on October 2, Young was taken from the Glace Bay Hospital to Cape Breton Regional Hospital in a taxi rather than an ambulance, after going to the ER with chest pains and symptoms of a heart attack. Glace Bay’s ER was closed that day because of staffing issues. A few days later Ms. Young died in hospital.

If there was ever a time when we should be coming together as a province to save our health care system, it’s now. But to even get to the point of doing something constructive, the Liberal government would first have to repair its relationship with doctors, who are threatening to sue them over disrespect of their negotiated contract.

Instead of playing politics with people’s lives, we could be doing something about the health care crisis. We could start by actually spending all the money allocated for health in the provincial budget, and making additional investments to hire more health professionals. Last year the health care budget was underspent by $27.6 million. We could be building on the NDP government’s legacy of establishing Collaborative Emergency Centres. We could be expanding community-based mental health services.

We could fix the system so that people in Glace Bay, the Northside and New Waterford aren’t left wondering if they’ll have the care they need in an emergency.

I didn’t get into this work because I like politics. I got into it because I believe that people matter, and when people are suffering, it’s the role of elected officials to do something about it.

When will the Liberals quit playing ball, and actually go to bat for Nova Scotians’ health?

Tammy Martin

NDP critic for

Health and Wellness