The health of all Nova Scotians is always a priority for us as individuals and for our families and friends. As a Government, we continue to support and encourage Nova Scotians to follow a healthy lifestyle and to exercise regularly. Along with healthy eating and a physical active lifestyle, we do need to have access to quality health care from our medical professionals. This means focusing on what people need to be healthy and to providing supports in the community so that care can be accessed.

With the establishment of one Nova Scotia Health Authority, physicians are advocating for better health and working as part of a team to provide the services and supports we all need and deserve. Our Government has made a commitment to work toward the goal of having access to a family doctor for every Nova Scotian. At the present time 90% of Nova Scotians do have a family doctor, however, for the remaining 10% who do not have a family doctor, it is frustrating and disappointing and makes managing our own health a challenge.

To that end, our Government continues to introduce and create opportunities for us to move towards better health. Premier Stephen McNeil recognizes that this work which has already started needs to continue with our goal, as we move closer to a family doctor for every Nova Scotian.

Dr. Lynne Harrigan, Vice President of Medical and Integrated Health Services, is with the newly established Nova Scotia Health Authority and has outlined the options available to Nova Scotians if and when we need a family doctor. Some of the options that Dr. Lynne Harrigan explains to us are included here in her most recent article. Dr. Harrigan herself has a family doctor who is soon to retire and she shares the following:

Chances are I may have to visit a walk-in clinic at some point. They come in handy for those of us without a family doctor or those who can’t see their family doctor when they need to. Walk-ins can also be convenient when an unexpected health issue comes up.

While walk-in clinics help us get by when we’re stuck, we know we have to create a system that works better for all of us. The ideal, and what we need to work toward, is for all Nova Scotians to be connected to a practice where they can seek advice for staying healthy, receive treatment for health needs, manage chronic illness and improve overall health.

To make this work and be sustainable, we have to create a collaborative system of care. That means doctors work in teams, with other physicians and care providers, to make sure their patients can receive care when they need it. This would include same-day or next-day appointments, with evening and weekend access to care from a team that knows your health history.

We know when patients have a team of care providers, they have better health outcomes. And because our health as a province isn’t improving, we know we need to do something different to achieve a different result.

On the physician side of things, collaborative practices help us attract and retain physicians.

Working in supportive teams means being able to deliver more co-ordinated and comprehensive care to patients. Physicians who train and work in collaborative practices in our province have told us how rewarding the experience is, both in the quality of their practice and for work-life balance.

Better care for patients and a more rewarding practice for physicians and teams, resulting in better health outcomes for our province, is a win for all of us.

Physician recruitment is ongoing and we are developing a provincial plan for recruitment. As a provincial health authority, we have the opportunity to understand where we need physicians, based on the needs of the community and the size of the population. Needs vary across the province and as we continue our planning work we’ll be much better able to support people and address physician retirements.

The work we need to do has started. Will it be easy? No. Is it the right thing to do? Yes. We need to make changes that will help families, communities and our entire province.

As I face managing a chronic health condition without the care of a family doctor, I think of the others in Nova Scotia who face the same challenge. For all of us, and for Nova Scotians across the province, we must work together to create a different, healthier future.

Statistics Canada Community Health Survey (2014) shows the following: 89.4 per cent of Nova Scotians self-report having access to a regular medical doctor; nationally the number is 85.1 per cent.

Karen Casey, MLA

Colchester North