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Snowed-in and isolated, health worries mount for some Cape Bretoners

A woman makes her way on Charlotte Street in Sydney, N.S., after last's weekend's historic snowfall.  (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
A woman makes her way on Charlotte Street in Sydney, N.S., after last's weekend's historic snowfall. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

With travel still difficult or impossible in parts of Cape Breton, health concerns are top of mind for many people. Whether it's home care, medication or hospital treatments, efforts are being made to help those most at risk.

The Meals on Wheels program in Sydney has conducted a phone check-in with its clients.

"People are feeling scared, isolated and running really low on critical medicines and basic food staples in their homes," said Erika Shea, president of New Dawn Enterprises, which runs Meals on Wheels.

The Cape Breton Metro VON has been in daily phone conduct with its home-care clients, triaging the most vulnerable.

Some clients have family or neighbours who can help them, and some are able to look after their own needs on a short-term basis, said district executive director Elizabeth MacDonald.

"Other clients, however, might have some cognitive issues or have dementia or have dexterity issues, or just simply aren't able to perform some of the tasks that we would do," she told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton on Thursday.

New Dawn Enterprises CEO Erika Shea says Meals on Wheels workers will try to get out to snowed-in clients on Thursday.
New Dawn Enterprises CEO Erika Shea says Meals on Wheels workers will try to get out to snowed-in clients on Thursday.

New Dawn Enterprises CEO Erika Shea says Meals on Wheels workers will try to get out to snowed-in clients on Thursday. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

VON home-care staff have been shovelling into clients' homes and wading through snow-covered streets in some cases.

"We review our list every day for vulnerable clients," said MacDonald, noting staff have probably made a thousand calls to clients in recent days.

"Folks come on, folks come off our list, according to if somebody's gotten there to shovel, or if a nurse has finally gotten in. But yeah, it is a concern. And tomorrow will be really a week. And I know a lot of clients we talk to are scared."

Glace Bay pharmacist Sarah Boutelier has also been hearing from people running low on medications.

"A little bit of panic. Not too bad yet. But of course major concern about what was going to happen in the coming days," she told CBC's Mainstreet Cape Breton on Wednesday.

Her pharmacy is making deliveries where possible. She encourages people who are concerned about their prescriptions to reach out for help.

"There are going to be situations where if they feel they need to ration their medication to get them a couple of extra days, that could be an option," she said.

"But of course we recommend people reach out to their local pharmacy, many of whom are open now, to get some advice on how to safely and properly do that."

If it's difficult to get through to a pharmacy, as many are currently swamped with calls, Boutelier suggests calling 311.

Cape Breton Regional Hospital entrance, Jan. 11, 2023.
Cape Breton Regional Hospital entrance, Jan. 11, 2023.

Cape Breton Regional Hospital entrance is shown on Jan. 11, 2023. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Nova Scotia Health has resumed some non-emergency services in its eastern zone, including elective surgeries. Outpatient blood collection and ambulatory care clinics in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have resumed.

Rehab services are still restricted in the CBRM to urgent cases only, but outpatient rehab clinics at all other sites have resumed.

New Dawn's Meals on Wheels team planned to get out to snowed-in clients on Thursday with necessities.

"To send a meal out ... pick up critical medicines, pick up grocery deliveries, and get those to the about 40 clients who have not been able to leave their home," said Shea.

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