Month: May 2010

Question on Doctor Shortage in Yarmouth County

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Speaker: Honourable Charlie Parker
Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen’s Printer.
Second Session
[Page 2071]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.
HON. CHRISTOPHER D’ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. In Yarmouth many people still do not have access to a family doctor. The situation has been getting worse and people cannot access the two clinics in Yarmouth, and I’m sure the minister is aware of the Ocean View Family Clinic and the Harbourview family clinic.
As a former government, we established these clinics as training grounds for non-Canadian licenced doctors to get their Canadian licence and see them become established in the community – but this has not been the case and every one of these new doctors has moved away. Family doctors are at capacity and cannot accept new patients, and as a result people have to go to the emergency room to have small routine issues addressed – it’s hardly a kind of efficiency that we need in our health care system. Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is, what is your plan to address the family doctor shortage in Yarmouth and throughout the tri-county region?
HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for a very important question. I do understand that there has been a loss of some family doctors through the International Medical Graduate Program, the CAP program, in the Yarmouth area. The Department of Health works very closely with the district health authority; we’re working with the South West Health DHA to attract family physicians in that area. We do have a number of programs that will offer debt assistance to new graduates who are prepared to locate in a particular area, and the Yarmouth area is a priority area for us because of the loss of family physicians.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, recently doctors had a meeting in Halifax with the Department of Health officials where the doctors from Yarmouth were told that there is no doctor shortage in Yarmouth – this despite the fact that many, if not thousands of people in the tri-counties do not have access to a family doctor. We need to address the situation of foreign doctors becoming physician transients, at the Ocean View Family Clinic and at the Harbourview family clinic, to the frustration and disappointment of the residents of southwestern Nova Scotia.
My question to the minister is, will the minister listen to the people of Yarmouth and southwestern Nova Scotia and make a commitment to the community on coming up with solutions that will address the doctor shortage in the short term and plan for a long-term doctor commitment?
[Page 2072]
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we do have a variety of programs – we assist in funding site visits, for example, for physicians who want to come to a community and learn more about what’s available in that community, and we do have the assistance for debt that physicians have accrued when they go through the very lengthy process of medical school in return for service to a particular community. So these programs are available. We work closely with the DHA and we will continue to do so.
I think one of the difficulties, as I understand it, with physicians coming to this part of Nova Scotia has been the inability to secure employment for spouses, which increasingly is a growing concern that we’re seeing in some communities – but we will continue to work very closely with the DHAs to ensure that we have family practices throughout our province.
MR. D’ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I’ve received lots of letters from concerned citizens in Yarmouth who do not have access to a family doctor, people like Roland Melanson from Yarmouth. Mr. Melanson has had 14 different family doctors since 1980 and has health-related issues that require him to go and wait eight to 10 hours at the Yarmouth emergency room to have 15-minute consultations that could have been conducted by a family physician.
The minister has the responsibility to Nova Scotians to offer better than what the people of Yarmouth are currently receiving. Now is the time to help the people of southwestern Nova Scotia have improved access to family doctors. Instead of reducing funding to Dalhousie Medical School, will the minister consider increasing the number of seats at Dalhousie, in return for service in rural areas of Nova Scotia?
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we have a working group in the department in discussions with Dalhousie Medical School with respect to the seats that we fund at the school, which we want to continue to fund. We do have reciprocal service agreements. We were able to recruit, and there is a new physician in the Barrington area of southwest Nova Scotia, and we will continue to work to ensure that there is good family practice coverage for residents of Yarmouth and the tri-county area.

Georges Bank – Hansard

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Excerpt from Proceedings from the  Sixty-first General Assembly, Second session Wednesday April 28, 2010.  Also found on page 1558.  The plight of NoRigs2010.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D’ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it’s my honour to stand to speak a few moments to this resolution. I want to thank the Liberal Party for bringing this one forward. The minister spoke very well of the true nature of this situation. He said it’s going to be a very emotional issue.

Mr. Speaker, I can assure him it is going to be an extremely emotional issue in southwestern Nova Scotia. I know that as we get closer to it, and I’m starting to hear it today, and have been hearing it for a number of years now, are we going to extend the moratorium on Georges Bank? The member for Digby-Annapolis spoke very well of what Georges Bank is. Georges Bank is a wondrous place of what it can do and what it has provided to generations of Nova Scotians. The fishing villages that dot our coasts for the last 100 years or more have depended on the riches of Georges Bank for their livelihood. Even today communities all through southwestern Nova Scotia, whether it is the Pubnicos, the Wedgeports, Long and Brier Islands, the Meteghans and Saulniervilles, Woods Harbour, Shag Harbour – these all depend solely on the riches on Georges Bank.

Now this has been an issue that has been floating around since the 1980s, when Texaco first expressed their interest in drilling, looking at the resource, seeing what is on Georges. There are a number of tapes, there was some initial seismic done but Mr. Speaker, even today we cannot be certain what is on Georges Bank. Is it some light crude? Is it some heavy crude? Is it gas? Is it nothing at all?
What seismic does is, it will show where there is a possibility of salt dome, where it will look at the geology of the area to see if there’s a capability to hold hydrocarbons at the bottom of the ocean. So, Mr. Speaker, we don’t know today what could possibly be on Georges Bank. Which brings me to this issue – we can look at the tapes, we can look at the information that we do have but what is going to happen is that there are going to be companies that are going to make requests to do further seismic work on Georges Bank.
Now, Mr. Speaker, here is where the science gets fuzzy. As we know, when we get fuzzy science, people can play either side of that information. The fuzzy science is that we don’t know the effect of seismic work on fish stocks. We don’t know, the scientists will tell you they don’t know. Does it affect them? Does it affect the young? Does it affect crustaceans? Does it affect finfish? We don’t know. I would ask the minister to find a scientist who would dare say one way or another, or not counteract the information that another scientist has brought up.

I can say from the work when I was Minister of Fisheries, that work that was happening off Cape Breton and the science work that we had them do at that time, it was a stalemate – well, we think there might be, in fact, but we’re not sure. Is that good enough for the coastal communities of southwestern Nova Scotia?

I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, no, it is not. That is just the seismic part of oil exploration, not to say if that should go forward, should we find a hydrocarbon there and we put up a rig. Now I’ve said before that this is a wondrous place but it is not super large. I would say that should we get to that point maybe there will be one rig there, maybe there will be two but the risk of that rig is too great.
They said in the Gulf of Mexico, ah, there will never be a disaster. It is too safe, the technology is too good, look at what we have. Well, I think we proved them wrong – I don’t say “we” but I mean it was proved wrong. There was a humongous disaster just last week. I forget the name of the rig that basically blew up and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. There are millions of litres of oil now bubbling up from the bottom of the ocean, through the drill hole that was there.

Where would that end up, Mr. Speaker? It would be a disaster far beyond anything we’ve seen before and Nova Scotia has seen a number of disasters in oil rigs, oil tankers going ashore and cleanups having to happen, but they’ve been localized. They have been in bays and we have been able to clean them up. I know today, even out – I forget the name of the point just off of Halifax here and I forget the name of the boat that actually sank off there, but there still today you can find hunks of oil drifting on the beach, or you can dig and you can find it. It’s still (Interruption) The Arrow, that’s right. Thank you to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for that one.

The point I’m trying to make is there’s nothing that’s 100 per cent, and the people of southwestern Nova Scotia – the people in my riding, the people who depend on the fishery for their livelihood – will not accept anything but 100 per cent. The science might say it’s 50 per cent – you know, there’s a 50-50 chance or there’s an 80-20 chance or a 90-10 or a 99.9 per cent chance it will never happen. A 1 per cent is still too much. It’s still too much for the wondrous gift we have in Nova Scotia that is Georges Bank.

I know that there is science to do, but I think the inevitable is still upon us. We are going to expend a lot of time, hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would probably guess, to come to the conclusion that I think all of us know in our hearts. I hear it from the people from one end of this province to another – it is too great to jeopardize the future of Georges Bank with the possibility of another oil boom. I don’t think it’s there, I don’t think we should jeopardize it, and I think we should just do the right thing and extend the moratorium on Georges Bank. Thank you very much.