June 19, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Health Coalition is calling on Premier Stephen McNeil and Health Committee Chair Suzanne Lohnes-Croft to call meetings of the legislature’s Standing Committee on Health as soon as possible.
“The province is facing unprecedented healthcare challenges and it is frankly absurd that the democratic body tasked with overseeing healthcare in this province is not meeting,” said the Coalition’s Chris Parsons. “Nova Scotians have upended their lives to fight this virus, sixty two have died and we have already seen major changes to our healthcare system. The least that the government members of the committee can do is agree to meet.”
While the Premier has recently claimed that democratic oversight posed a threat to public health, the Health Coalition believes that an ongoing and public discussion about the COVID-19 response is necessary to protect Nova Scotians.
“The best thing we can do to ensure that the province is ready for a second wave of COVID-19 is to have a real, open and good faith discussion about the response to the first wave,” added Parsons.
The committee has not met since February 11th 2020. During that time sixty two people have died, the provincial government unnecessarily and publicly singled out Black Nova Scotian communities, thousands of surgeries and diagnostic procedures were canceled, telehealth services were given a physician billing code and widely implemented, calls for paid sick days have been ignored, and Nova Scotians have lived under a state of emergency.
The Coalition has two major concerns about the unwillingness of the Liberal government to recall the legislature or it’s committees.
First, the lack of public scrutiny of the response to the first wave of COVID-19 creates the risk of leaving the province ill-prepared for a likely second wave.
Second, the pandemic has created massive upheavals and changes in the broader public health system in Nova Scotia, including canceling over 2,000 surgeries and introducing virtual and tele-healthcare delivery by primary care physicians.
In order to respond to these changes, evaluate the response, and ensure the province is prepared for future challenges the Coalition is calling for house standing committees, including health and public accounts, to begin meeting immediately and to increase the frequency of meetings. In addition, the legislature as a whole should be recalled for emergency discussion COVID-19 and the province’s response. The General Assembly of the legislature has met for only 13 days in 2020.
“From racial disparities in health care to the tragic loss of life in long term care, there are at least a dozen distinct and pressing issues that require public scrutiny. If people can go to a bar or get a tattoo, then our democratic institutions can meet, either in person or via tele-conferencing, to make decisions and provide public scrutiny of the response,” Parsons concluded.
The Nova Scotia Health Coalition is a coalition of patients, health care practitioners, advocates and concerned Nova Scotians committed to defending, strengthening and extending public health care. The Coalition is a political but non-partisan organization founded in 1996.