N.S. premier, health minister, to kick off provincewide tour on health care Monday

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston waves to supporters after winning a majority government in the provincial election at the Pictou County Wellness Centre in New Glasgow, N.S. on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Monday marks the kick-off of the Progressive Conservative's Speak Up for Healthcare tour across Nova Scotia where Premier Houston and his health minister will tour the province gathering feedback from front-line health care workers.

"We just want to make sure we’re really listening to opportunities that they see, challenges that are in front of them and I’m excited actually to tour the province and hear from them,” said Houston.

He says his new government is very focused on making changes in the healthcare system, something that was the cornerstone of their recent campaign.

"I said during the campaign and I feel it even stronger now, we will give everything we have to make sure that we improve healthcare in this province," he said.

Cape Breton University political science professor Tom Urbaniak says the provincewide tour emphasizes healthcare remains a priority for the Houston government.

“Even though Tim Houston said during the debates and during the campaign that the problems won’t be fixed overnight, the expectations are high. And in fact, the PC’s themselves promised a major increase in funding, more than $400 million in the first year of their mandate," said Urbaniak.

Urbaniak says recruiting and retaining health care professionals is going to be critical for the government.

"They’re going to have to announce that they’re filling the gaps and that they’re filling the shortages. That they’re bringing Nova Scotians home, that they’re recruiting people with compatible credentials elsewhere and that they’re working with communities to settle those professionals across Nova Scotia. That’s going to be really critical in the next few months," he said.

The president of Doctors Nova Scotia agrees recruitment is a big issue facing the province.

"If you don’t have workers to keep your system going, you can make all the changes you want and you’re not going to get anywhere. You need the people to support the work you want to do and to maintain the quality of the work you want to do," said Dr. Heather Johnson.

She says the tour is a good way for government to start a mandate.

"To me, to see the people that I talk to in the hospital over the past week - the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics - all thinking that they might get a chance to bend the premier’s ear about things they think are important, that gives people a sense of ownership in the planning and those are the pieces that are going to increase morale and improve it after what we’ve been through the last couple of years of things really being more difficult,” said Johnson.

The Speak Up for Health Care tour will take place from September 20 to 23.