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Physician shortages topic of debate at Nova Scotia Health Authority annual meeting

Click to play video: 'Physician shortages topic of debate at Nova Scotia Health Authority annual meeting' Physician shortages topic of debate at Nova Scotia Health Authority annual meeting
WATCH ABOVE: Nova Scotia Health Authority holds second annual general meeting since the amalgamation of nine separate health authorities. – Jul 6, 2017
It’s been two years since nine separate health authorities across the province amalgamated as the Nova Scotia Healthy Authority [NSHA].

The authority held its second annual general meeting Thursday morning in Halifax.

Topics ranged from the “burden” chronic illness and disease is placing on the healthcare system, to an ongoing recruitment strategy to attract and retain physicians.

“We have issues in terms of access to family physicians in this province. We are working aggressively to bring in more physicians. We brought in 43 family physicians and 68 specialists last year,” said Janet Knox, the CEO of the NSHA.

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Knox says when the authority was first amalgamated the focus was on reducing times for the “longest waiters.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia ERs closed again due to doctor shortage

“We chose three areas to focus on to deal with access and one of those was orthopedic surgery and we were able to achieve 1,500 more surgeries in the past two years for hip and knee replacement,” Knox said.

Other areas of focus include access to long-term care and support, as well as reducing wait times for diagnostic procedures.

“We chose MRI’s and we were able to reduce the wait-time by 12 per cent,” she said.

While much of the AGM focused on the “benefits” of having a single-health authority, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin expressed concern with ongoing physician shortages and temporary emergency room closures.

“There was a lot of patting themselves (NSHA) on the back for a job well done and what I’m hearing from my constituency and what I’m seeing is there’s a lot of deficits out there,” Smith-McCrossin said.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia premier defends health-care system, as Doctors list litany of concerns

The NSHA tracks emergency room closures on-line.

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“During the Health Authority AGM, I’m reading online that the collaborative care centre in Pugwash has no physician to cover the emergency room for the next six days and in that area alone, the population literally quadruples because of the people summering at their cottages,” Smith-McCrossin said.

Knox says keeping physicians in rural areas has always been a challenge but believes new recruitment strategies will be effective.

“Where family physicians train, in their family practice residency program, 90 per cent of them stay in Nova Scotia in those areas where they’ve trained,” Knox said.

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

Knox adds the “goal” of the authority is to give communities health care models that fit their needs.

“We have built a system that’s very hospital focused, we call it the health care system, its very hospital focused. We are purposely talking about a re-imagined healthy system. That’s focused on helping people be healthy in their local communities.”

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