Liberals leave Cape Breton out of virtual care plans

Cape Bretoners are rightly feeling left out after a plan to bring long-overdue access to family doctors through virtual care does not extend past the Canso Causeway.

This week, the Rankin Liberals borrowed from the PC Hope for Health plan by offering virtual access to doctors for people on the 65,526 person waitlist.

Unlike the PC plan, the Rankin plan continues to leave many without access. Cape Bretoners aren’t eligible, something that doesn’t sit well with PC MLA Brian Comer.

“There aren’t enough doctors in Cape Breton, and we can’t leave people with nothing,” says Comer. “We put together a complete plan on this. The government shouldn’t be cutting Cape Breton out of it.”

Brenda Pledge moved home from Ontario and immediately signed up for a family doctor. She has been unsuccessful in finding one and has relied on walk-in clinics and emergency rooms. But with complex health conditions, that isn’t cutting it.

“Why is this Virtual Health NS project unavailable to Cape Bretoners?” says Pledge. ”We are the furthest from Halifax and the most underserved in terms of family doctor availability. If anyone needs to be included in this initiative, it's Cape Bretoners.”

Pledge says Nova Scotia seems to want people to move here, but isn’t doing anything to be prepared for them.

“When you invite an aging population to return, there are going to be health care implications. It's misleading to suggest that this province is ready to receive us,” says Pledge. “I don’t want to return to Ontario, but I might not have a choice. I need a doctor.”

The Liberals came to power in 2013 with the failed promise of a family doctor for every Nova Scotian. There is a current waitlist of over 65,000 people waiting for a family doctor. Hospitals in Cape Breton have had the highest mortality rate in Canada for three straight years.

After mocking the idea of virtual health in 2020 and refusing to pass PC virtual care legislation two months ago, the Liberals are now promoting it, just not in Cape Breton.

"Any rollout of virtual access to primary health care should include Cape Breton and the Eastern Zone,” says Comer. “It should not pick winners and losers. The farthest distance to travel to Halifax for specialized services and higher rates of chronic disease are only two of the reasons this is unacceptable."