2021 Nova Scotia Election Men's Health Platforms

2021-08-11 • Halifax

Q Health ImageBy Angus Campbell

Hello Wayves Readers,

It’s been awhile since I wrote the Gay Men’s Health column but I figured that, with an election being called, it was the right time to ask the three major parties where they stand on health issues and, specifically, those that affect gay men.

I asked each party five questions. I have summarized their responses and included a link to their full replies. On a few occasions I have expressed my personal view, but in general, I leave it up to you to form your own opinion.

Unfortunately, and surprisingly, I did not receive a response from the New Democratic Party.

[Editor:  the NDP did respond, with an apology for their tardiness, the next day. Click here for their response as a separate article.]

Happy Pride and please vote!

Question 1: It is my understanding that your party supports paying for the cost of PrEP used to prevent someone from getting HIV. If your party forms government, when will you implement this policy?

Liberal Party: According to the Liberals, PrEP is already available. “People who are concerned about their risk of HIV infection should speak to a primary care provider so they can be assessed to determine whether they are eligible for PrEP. Prescriptions for PrEP can be filled at community pharmacies across the province.”

New Democratic Party: No Response Received

Progressive Conservative Party: The PCs do not explicitly state that they support paying the cost of PrEP, noting instead, that “we will review the formulary that decides what drugs are covered and which are not. We need to make sure that the formulary meets the needs of Nova Scotians.”

Question 2: prideHealth, which is managed by NS Health and the IWK, “works to improve access to health services which are safe, coordinated, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate.” Since its revival a decade ago it has been frequently understaffed and their voice mail currently states that there is only one employee fulfilling both the coordinator and navigator roles. It is unclear whether either of these positions is full-time. What would your party do to ensure that people from my community are better, and continuously, served by prideHealth?

Liberals: “A re-elected Liberal government will continue to listen to the needs of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and strive toward building a healthcare system that works for everyone.”

NDP: No response received.

PCs: In my opinion, the PCs did not directly address the question posed. What they don’t seem to recognize is that our community already has the prideHealth system but it lacks continuous resources. Perhaps they aren’t aware that prideHealth exists?

Question 3: Continuing Care includes Long Term Care (LTC) and Home Care. Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) are necessary for both but there appears to be a focus on recruitment for LTC. Most Nova Scotians want to remain in their homes as long as possible but will require varying levels of care given by their family/friend caregivers and other home supports. What is your party proposing to recruit CCAs? What is your policy for supporting unpaid caregivers looking after someone at home?

Liberals: "The Liberals have promised to increase wages, invest in workplace safety, invest $500,000 annually for CCAs to upgrade their skills, and establish 30 new LPN seats at NSCC."

They stated that they enhanced the Caregiver Benefit Program and adjusted the low-income threshold which made supports more affordable to allow seniors to stay at home.

“Our government has provided an additional $3.05 million per year for these programs to improve access to home care for an additional 1,600 Nova Scotians per year. The Rankin government will also establish a province-wide advisory council of long-term care residents, home care clients and their families and caregivers to advise on improved policies and procedures for continuing care in Nova Scotia.” As a former and current caregiver, as the retired executor director of Caregivers Nova Scotia, and as a member of our community, I hope I will be asked to serve on this committee.

NDP: No response received.

PCs: The PCs' focus is definitely on Long Term Care rather than having a plan for Home Care. “Our plan says to address the current and future increased demands on our system, we must increase the number of staff in our long-term care properties and focus on training more healthcare workers, with a heavy emphasis on CCAs. To reach the recommended levels of staffing care, we would require an additional 600 nurses (a combination of RNs and LPNs) and 1,400 CCAs.”

Given that research demonstrates that more effort should be made to support people to stay at home, and that 75% of Nova Scotians prefer to die at home with palliative support services, I am surprised by the vagueness of the PC response; at best, they will “reassess [the Caregiver Benefit Program]” and “examine any idea to improve access to health care for Nova Scotians.”

Question 4: How do you feel Public Health and the provincial government have handled the COVID-19 pandemic? What would your party have done differently, and in the case of the Liberals, do you see any areas for improvement?

Liberals: “For advice regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to listen to public health officials and Dr. Strang. COVID-19 has highlighted several areas that were not ready for the unexpected impacts of the pandemic. We have learned a great deal from the past 18 months and we have already made numerous changes as a result.”

Among these changes are the new investments in both Long Term Care and Home Care and the signing of a federal-provincial agreement on childcare and early learning.

NDP: No response received.

PCs: “Nova Scotians did the hard work that got Nova Scotia through the worst of the pandemic. By listening to Dr. Strang and Public Health, we were able to be relatively successful.”

“The most obvious area for improvement is the long-term care system, specifically Northwood. The reports that followed the deaths of residents show a facility that was simply overwhelmed and unprepared for the strain COVID-19 put on the staff, administrator and residents.”

The PCs are correct in noting that, before the pandemic, on three occasions Northwood requested the government provide increased funding, but those requests were rejected.

Question 5: COVID-19 follow up:  Just over 76% of Nova Scotians have received vaccinations (66% have received both doses). If your party is elected, how will you encourage all eligible Nova Scotians to get vaccinated such that we can protect one another? What do you say to anti-vaxxers?

Liberals: “We encourage everyone to get the vaccine so we can avoid a fourth wave and continue in our phased reopening plan. We understand that some Nova Scotians have questions about vaccination, we think that the best approach to this is working with public health officials to help educate and encourage these individuals.”

The Liberals have committed to exploring a provincial vaccine certificate called ScotiaPass.

NDP: No response received.

PCs: “The PC Party has always been a proponent of vaccinations against COVID-19. A PC government would continue to follow the advice of Public Health and use public education to encourage all Nova Scotians to get vaccinated, and [emphasize] the importance [that] vaccines [have] to keeping our communities safe.”

Here is the full text of the response from the Liberal Party.

Here is the full text of the responses received from the PC Party

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