The massive overhaul of health-care delivery in Cape Breton took a major step forward Thursday, according to the project’s senior medical director.
Dr. Elwood MacMullin said the province’s announcement of $38.4 million for planning and early construction of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality health-care redevelopment is a “signal of what’s being done and what’s to come.”
A surgeon in the area for more than 35 years, MacMullin said the project represents the "most important, most significant advance in health-care infrastructure and capability" he’s ever witnessed locally.
“What this project addresses is a modernization of necessity. This project is going to bring health care in Cape Breton to a very modern and technologically advanced state and allow us to provide cutting-edge care, the very finest care that can be provided to our patients right here in Cape Breton well into the 21st century.”
The project includes building a new Cape Breton Cancer Centre and a clinical services addition that includes an emergency department, critical-care department, 72 in-patient beds and surgical suites at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. A hub facility featuring a new school, modern health centre, long-term care home and new recreational facilities will be built in New Waterford, while the Northside is expected to get a new, modern health centre, long-term care home and laundry centre that will serve the other hospitals. In Glace Bay, the hospital’s emergency department and surgical services will be expanded.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Lloyd Hines said the money for the planning is a key part of the project.
“Obviously when you go to build something, you need a good plan, so this money is to dispatch that plan and get us to the point where we can decide what we’re going to do, what the finished project will look like and get the plans in place,” he said.
“It’s the largest health-care project that we’ve seen in Cape Breton for a long time and it will transform health care by improving access by creating more reliable services and doing work all throughout the four sites.”
While many people have protested the closures of emergency rooms in North Sydney and New Waterford, MacMullin said he believes people will receive better care.
“The day of the small, little emergency department being able to do everything is largely gone. There is still a need in communities for clinics, family doctors and for some services that are going to be preserved in these communities, but to have a really effective emergency department requires a very, very technologically advanced capability and it’s just not possible to provide that for every single community. First of all, we couldn’t afford it. Second, we couldn’t man it. So I think what we’re getting here is the best possible solution to emergency care needs in Cape Breton.”
MacMullin said most of the medical staff are “extremely excited and completely on board” with the plan, which he expects will make it easier to recruit doctors.
“I certainly think it’s going to help. If you’re a young practitioner who was trained in a state-of-the-art facility in medical school, it is very appealing to go to a community that has the same sort of technology, infrastructure and the appropriate space for the delivery of health-care services. So I think it’s going to make a difference.”