EDITORIAL Prenatal classes, home visits could be cut

Published on May 8, 2014

Rumour has it that the Nova Scotia provincial government is going to make reductions in the public health services it offers new mothers.

Prenatal classes in some areas and home visits by public health nurses are apparently on the block.

This news, which was ferreted out by the CBC, is of great concern to many who are parents. New mothers, especially first-time moms, are extremely vulnerable and they are responsible for new human lives. Ready support is crucial, particularly for moms without family and friends nearby. Even retired public health nurses are speaking out in the face of possible cutbacks.

One cannot assume that fledgling parents are able to Google every answer they need. Many of the neediest don’t have access to the Internet. Furthermore, there is nothing compared to sitting in the same room as a parenting veteran.

Curtailing home visits is troublesome because of the emotional place new mothers are in and the sleep deprivation they suffer. Those who might be suffering from the start of postpartum depression should be identified as early as possible.

Last August, a group of young mothers in eastern Kings County were petitioning Annapolis Valley Health to re-evaluate the closure of the Baby Café program, a low-cost and successful breastfeeding support group. That decision was announced in April without any public input.

At that time, Hillary Marentette of Halifax, who has been involved with birthing and breastfeeding for many years as a pre-natal educator and doula, questioned the cancellation and expressed fear there may be more.

At the time, Annapolis Valley Health said public health staffing had ceased for Baby Café due to the need to allocate more resources to the Enhanced Home Visiting program. What has changed?

It’s no wonder a petition has already been launched. We would suggest the department conduct a thorough and well-publicized public consultation if it wants to review the needs of new and expectant mothers before making changes. Not taking such action and going ahead with cuts is irresponsible and potentially dangerous for young families in this province.


Not defensible

We are still shocked at the news that Nova Scotia MLAs only have to serve for two years now in order to become eligible for a pension. A government-organized panel that examined how members are compensated recommended the change this winter.

The three-member panel indicated that pay for members of the legislative assembly ought to stay the same, but pensions should come sooner.

Until last fall, politicians had to be elected twice and serve for five years before becoming eligible. Now, one election win and two years of service makes them pensionable.

The panel concluded that if civil servants in Nova Scotia are eligible for a pension after being employed for two years, then politicians should be too.

The panel’s decision means backbencher MLAs who serve eight years get a pension of $25,480 a year once they turn 55. Former auditor general Roy Salmon, who chaired of the panel, said reducing the eligibility is reasonable given the average time an MLA remains in the House of Assembly is seven to eight years.

The changes presented by the panel are binding and are retroactive to last November, after the NDP government departed. Most Nova Scotians, especially in light of the Ivany report, will have a hard time stomaching this change in relation to pension benefits in the private sector.