Op-Ed by Health Minister Randy Delory

The Chronicle Herald – June 4

Re: the May 21 opinion piece from Elmsdale family doctor George Burden, asking why government is investing in a provincial art gallery.

First, I want all Nova Scotians to know that I appreciate our health professionals who are willing to share their experiences and ideas in hopes of improving our health-care system. Healthy dialogue is important and can go a long way toward addressing challenges together.

It is important to note that there is a very distinct difference between capital and operational spending. The funding announced in April for a new art gallery is a single one-time provincial/federal capital investment. At the same time, we are spending more than $2 billion on health-care infrastructure with the redevelopment of the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax and the redevelopment of health-care and long-term-care facilities in Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Other capital investments are being made in community health centres across the province as well.

 

These types of investments are much different from operational spending. Operational funding is annual. Our annual operational budget for health care is over $4 billion. Every year, almost $900 million is spent to pay approximately 2,400 doctors. And, last year, outside of the negotiated agreement, we invested an additional $40 million to improve access to primary health care. This new funding enhanced doctors’ compensation through fee increases as well as incentives intended to take more Nova Scotians off the 811 Need A Family Practice Registry.

We remain committed to improving access to care and much of the additional $40 million will be spent every year moving forward. We are negotiating with Doctors Nova Scotia to ensure we have a compensation package for doctors that’s competitive across the region.

A number of suggestions in the article are initiatives already underway in Nova Scotia.

  • Residency training for medical students: we recently added 10 new family medicine residency spaces across the province, with a focus on rural Nova Scotia. Research shows this program to be the most successful in keeping doctors here.

  • Tuition relief program: new doctors can have their tuitions reimbursed, up to $120,000, in exchange for five years of service in Nova Scotia.

  • Family medicine bursary: we also offer up to $60,000 for a resident to start a practice here; in return, they work in Nova Scotia for three years.

  • Debt assistance: between $20,000 and $45,000 to eligible new grads who choose to work in Nova Scotia.

  • Expanding and strengthening collaborative care: more than 130 health professionals, including nurses and social workers, hired over the last three years.

  • Creation of a community fund: the aim is to support community groups and organizations in their efforts to recruit and retain doctors.

I’d like to thank those health professionals who are bringing their suggestions forward. It is good to see the conversation about recruitment continuing in a constructive way. Our goal as government is to continue to work with health professionals and communities to promote Nova Scotia as the warm, welcoming province it is.

Randy Delorey is Nova Scotia’s Health and Wellness Minister