N.S. government holding raffle for health-care workers’ ideas

Health-care workers in Nova Scotia with “common sense ideas” for how to improve the system now have a shot at winning one of 50 prizes, each worth $1,000.

Premier Tim Houston’s office announced the contest — dubbed the health-care improvement challenge — on Monday. People are being asked to submit ideas that are “simple and easy to implement with little to no funding.”

The premier says it’s another way to listen to health-care workers. Opposition leaders say it’s a sign the premier has run out of ideas to make good on his promise to fix the health-care system.

“Sometimes a little bit of cash motivates people to put their thoughts down and we don’t want any barriers in the way,” Houston told reporters at Province House on Tuesday.

The premier said he got the idea while on a recent trip to Singapore where he met with health-care officials in that country. The idea has worked there, and Houston said he hopes it can help fix frustrations that health-care workers have here.

A man stands in front of microphones.
Liberal Leader Zach Churchill speaks to reporters at Province House in Halifax. (Robert Short/CBC)

Within 12 hours of the contest announcement, Houston said there were more than 200 submissions. Eligible ideas will go into the draw for the prize money.

“I’m sure we’ll get a number more and I’m sure some of those will be actionable. And I’m also sure some of them probably will not, but we want those actionable ones. We want to move forward.”

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill took a different view on the contest.

“I don’t think that the best way to build health-care policy is through a raffle,” he told reporters.

“I think it’s desperate and it shows us that the ideas that the premier ran on aren’t working.”

Churchill said it’s fine to look for good ideas, but they need to be based on evidence and follow “a very thoughtful process” before investments are made and policy is developed.

A woman stands in front of microphones.
NDP Leader Claudia Chender said the provincial government needs to take action on health care rather than launch a contest. (Robert Short/CBC)

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said the premier’s contest is “completely ridiculous.”

The system faces major challenges, such as staffing shortages, infrastructure shortfalls and long wait times for services, she told reporters.

“The province is in charge of health care and these are big problems that need big fixes and they have big dollar amounts attached,” said Chender.

“And so instead of deflecting and sweetening the pot for a number of people who are willing to send an email, [the premier] should do the job that people elected him to do and start to actually fix health care.”

The contest is open until Nov. 22. According to a news release from the premier’s office, 20 ideas from eligible submissions will be shortlisted by a review panel and the public will have the chance to vote on their top 10.

“Those top 10 ideas will be considered priorities, and the government will work with health-system partners to implement them, where feasible,” the release said.


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