Finding a family doctor in Nova Scotia not getting any easier: StatsCan

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Finding a family doctor in Nova Scotia not getting easier: StatsCan
Despite a Liberal promise for a family doctor for every Nova Scotian, the latest numbers show more than one in 10 don’t have one. Marieke Walsh reports – Mar 24, 2017

Despite a Liberal promise of a family doctor for every Nova Scotian, the latest numbers show more than one in 10 don’t have one.

Numbers for 2015 released Wednesday by Statistics Canada show 11 per cent of Nova Scotians don’t have a regular health care provider. In Halifax, access is lower with approximately 14 per cent of people reporting that they don’t have a family doctor or other regular health care provider.

READ MORE: Doctors Nova Scotia warns of physician shortage amid retirement boom

That means 91,800 people across the province go without. The majority of those were in Halifax, with 49,200 reporting that they don’t have a regular doctor or other health care provider.

The survey covers people 12 years of age and higher. The margin of error provincially is 1.7 per cent and 3.2 per cent for Halifax.

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But access to primary care in Nova Scotia is better than the national average. Across Canada 17 per cent of people said they don’t have a regular health-care provider.

The national statistics agency said the difference between Halifax’s rate and the national average isn’t significant, meaning access is about the same. But Nova Scotia’s average rate is significantly different — meaning that on the whole, people in Nova Scotia are more likely to have regular health-care provider compared to the rest of Canada.

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Statistics Canada changed its methodology for the 2015 survey, so cautions against direct comparisons to previous years.

Liberals still working on election promise more than 3 years in

The Liberals promised to “ensure a doctor for every Nova Scotian” within three years of coming to power. Well past that timeline, Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters the campaign pledge is a work in progress.

“We’re going to continue to work at that,” McNeil said yesterday.

Citing new doctors in Digby, Nova Scotia, and the pledge to hire 22 nurses for collaborative care clinics in several areas across the province, McNeil said his government has been able to “stabilize the issue,”

READ MORE: Campaign promise of a doctor for every Nova Scotian 5 years away: health CEO

“There’s more work to do — we know that,” he said. “We recognize there are a number of Nova Scotians that still require access to primary care, but I think it’s important to recognize that here are a lot of Nova Scotians who have access already.”

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Health Minister Leo Glavine is promising “a number of announcements” for Halifax and Dartmouth as well as other parts of the province “in the coming weeks.” Asked when the province’s capital would see a boost in access, Glavine said “it’ll be during this spring.”

Going without a family doctor ‘scary’ for one Nova Scotian

Annette Lowe has been searching for a family doctor since last July. She’s among the 25,000 Nova Scotians who are on the province-wide waiting list and says she regularly calls around to clinics to see if they are accepting patients.

She said she’s troubled by the numbers that show tens of thousands of Nova Scotians don’t have a family doctor.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia doctor calls family doctor shortage a ‘crisis’

“I think that’s scary, because seeing a doctor and managing your health could prevent some major health incidents from taking place,” she said.

She said she’d like to see the province act faster to tackle the issue.

“I feel that they’re downplaying it,” she said. “To people like me, it’s a big deal — it’s my health, and my health is very important.”

Glavine said the changing nature of family practices and Halifax’s growing population are among the hurdles his department faces. He said getting doctors in the right places “has been a challenge and will continue to be.”

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