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Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston delivers his housing plan in Halifax on Oct. 20, 2021.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is reassuring his party faithful that he still intends to fix the province’s health care system at whatever cost it takes.

During his keynote address at the Progressive Conservative Annual General Meeting, Houston said Saturday he will make whatever financial investment is needed to turn the health crisis around.

The premier – who campaigned on fixing Nova Scotia’s struggling health care system before his August 2021 win – says a lot of work is needed, “progress is too slow, and the stakes are very high.”

Houston says his heart goes out to the families of a 67-year-old woman in Cape Breton and a 37-year-old woman in Amherst who died days apart in December after waiting for hours in regional emergency departments.

Houston’s government announced a plan to improve emergency care following the two deaths, which included creating doctor-led triage teams to focus on admitting patients more quickly in ERs and assigning extra physician assistants and nurse practitioners to staff emergency departments.

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Houston touted recent efforts to tackle the issue, which include adding more nursing student seats, creating mobile urgent and primary care clinics and signing an agreement for the creation of a digital medical record program.

He says the province is currently spending 41 cents of every dollar on health care, and he will spend “whatever it takes” to make the necessary change.

“Last month, I pulled health care leaders from across the province together, in person, to look one another in the eye,” Houston said during his speech. “My message to them was direct: We need more. And we need to go faster. As for the cost, whatever it takes.”

In order to improve the provincial system, he added, Nova Scotia needs increased support from the federal government.

The premier said such support could come in the form of financial contributions and by fast-tracking immigration for health care workers.

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