As we continue our investments in Health Care, and in particular in doctor recruitment, there are some facts and some information that it is important for my constituents and all Shoreline readers to know.
Nova Scotia, like all other provinces in Canada, is faced with a shortage of doctors, in particular, in Family Medicine practices. Looking at our province in comparison to all other Canadian provinces, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that Nova Scotia has the highest number of doctors per capita in Canada. We are fortunate to be in this position. However, many of those doctors are in specialist areas, in research or in teaching at the Dalhousie Medical School. We need those doctors to be practicing in Family Medicine in our own communities. Our focus continues to be finding a family practice doctor to take over the patient roster when an older doctor retires.
Our experience over the last few years has shown that many family doctors entering the profession are looking to achieve a greater balance between their personal and professional commitments. This often means that when one of our older doctors retires, it requires up to 3 new doctors to cover the patient roster. So for every family doctor who retires, we often need to hire 3 new recruits to assume that practice. Although that presents a real challenge for us here in rural Nova Scotia, we are making progress. It is encouraging to note that Statistics Canada ranks Nova Scotia in 4th place when it comes to connecting patients with a health care provider.
Our recruitment strategy is focused on both short and long term plans.
In the short term, we are providing many incentives to work in Nova Scotia. Some of these include:
tuition relief program for both Canadian and International Medical School graduates, up to a maximum of $120 000
return for service bursaries for Family Medicine Residents ($60 000) who agree to practice here for 3 years
debt assistance plan (between $20 000 - $45 000) for new Medical School graduates
locum support (administered for Government by Medavie Blue Cross) for practicing doctors in rural communities to help cover medical care for their patients if/when the family doctor is away from the office due to illness, vacation or medical study.
We also provide financial support to community groups who are actively engaged in the recruitment process for their own areas.
In the long term, we have invested heavily in new infrastructure projects like the QEII Health Services Centre Re-development Plan. This plan includes the expansion of the Halifax Infirmary, the building of the Halifax Hospice Residence, the new QEII Cancer Care Centre which allows all cancer care to be offered in one location, the Community Outpatient Centre in Bayers Lake which provides a more convenient option for clinic and specialist appointments for thousands of Nova Scotians like those of us in Colchester North, who travel to Halifax for such services, a second outpatient centre for those requiring day surgery at the Halifax Infirmary, and a renovated Dartmouth General which will double the number of operating rooms from 4 to 8, as well as adding 50 new hospital beds.
In addition, a major expansion with the Cape Breton Hospital Re-development will provide health care workers and patients with access to a new, modern facility that both deserve. During the recruitment process, doctors have expressed their desire to work in a modern facility with current technologies and equipment.
We are fortunate in Colchester North to have our modern facility in Truro, and working in that hospital has proven to be an incentive for attracting new recruits. In fact, the Colchester Hospital was one site selected by Dalhousie University to host their Family Residency Training Program, and 2 residency doctors are currently completing a 2 year program in that facility. Let’s hope they choose to stay and practice here in Colchester County. We are also increasing the number of seats at the Dalhousie Medical School, so Nova Scotia high school graduates can stay and train here in their own province. The province has recently funded 10 additional seats for family medicine, 15 additional seats for specialists and 25 new seats for training nurse practitioners.
Considering both the short and long term investments in doctor recruitment and retention, we are encouraged that over 200 new doctors have been hired over the last two years, and we look forward to continued success. It has been, and continues to be a priority for our Government.
Karen Casey, MLA