Opening Remarks - Public Accounts Committee

Thank you Deputy Vaughan. Good morning. 

We too agree with the Auditor General and are working to address the issues identified in his report. I welcome the opportunity to be here today with my colleagues Paula Bond, VP Integrated Health Services and Allan Horsburgh Vice President, Stewardship & Accountability to share an update on our efforts, to plan, manage and deliver health services more efficiently and effectively. 

Our first 18 months has shown promising results.

Nova Scotians are seeing shorter wait times and improved access in a number of key areas including home care, and long term care as well as some diagnostic and surgical services. As the deputy mentioned, there have also been financial gains. Along with the ongoing savings from a streamlined administrative structure, we are finding efficiencies and putting our money where it’s needed most. We balanced our budget in our first year despite facing $70 million in cost pressures.

And we know there are more opportunities.

We are working with the IWK Health Centre and the Department of Health and Wellness to develop and implement a multi-year plan that 
will result in new provincial approaches to a range of health services. We are focused on creating an accessible health system that offers the right care, in the right place, at the right time - based on evidence and the needs of the population. 

This is what the Auditor General, and in fact Nova Scotians, have asked us to do.

Creating that system involves listening to what Nova Scotians tell us is important to them. Their voices are reflected in many ways - through surveys and consultation sessions on health system initiatives, in Community Health Plans and through our Talk about Health Public Engagement strategy.

Here’s some of what we’ve heard so far. 

Nova Scotians want access to care as close to home as possible. They want timely access to doctors, nurse practitioners and other primary care providers. That’s not a surprise.

There are inequities in services across the province, and certain population groups and communities have unique needs that have to be considered. It should also be easier for patients to move from one service to another.

We also heard that we need to live well, to build supportive systems and encourage a healthy population. 

All of this is informing our planning for the future…. And we intend to keep listening. 

Engaging with citizens is a key strategic priority for the organization and is increasingly built into how we make decisions. For example, we are now in the process of recruiting a Patient, Family and Public Advisory Council to help bring a public lens to our work. 

While this process is still evolving, we know for certain that we need to do things differently if we want different results. And I think we can all agree – we want different results. 

Nova Scotia has an aging population with high rates of chronic disease. Despite spending more and more on health care over many years, we aren’t getting any healthier. A child born here will live an average of one year less and have two years less of good health than the Canadian average.

Growing demands related to the health needs of our population, inflationary costs and aging buildings and equipment continue to drive up costs. 
Continuing to invest more in the same way is not the answer.

The planned approach to the redevelopment of the QEII Health Sciences Centre is a good example of rethinking how we can deliver safe, quality and appropriate care in a more efficient and innovative way. There has been progress made on all aspects of this project with some key milestones over the past few months. But what I really want to emphasize is the approach we’re taking. 

This isn’t about simply replacing an outdated facility. It’s about understanding the health needs of the population and what programs and services are required to meet those needs - now and in the future. From that, we can plan what types of spaces are needed and where they are best located.

While we have a plan to address the challenges with the VG site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, there are aging buildings and equipment across the province. We are taking a similar approach to addressing those needs - prioritizing our investments based on the evolving needs of the population. 

Nova Scotians expect and deserve a high-quality, sustainable and effective health system—one that supports them in being well and provides timely access to care when it’s needed. 

By planning and acting as one system for the benefit of all Nova Scotians - by  using evidence and best practice to make the best use of our financial, people and infrastructure resources  -and  by engaging the public in creating a healthier future together, we are working to ensure they have it.   

Thank you.

Janet Knox