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Nova Scotia doing a ‘poor job’ explaining its family doctor plans: auditor general

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia’s auditor general takes aim at the province’s mental health care services and ‘poor’ communication'
Nova Scotia’s auditor general takes aim at the province’s mental health care services and ‘poor’ communication
In his first report solely focused on health care in Nova Scotia, Auditor General Michael Pickup found significant problems. Marieke Walsh breaks down his report and what it means for Nova Scotians – Nov 22, 2017

Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the province is doing a poor job of explaining its plans to attract family doctors and the future of primary care in the province.

The report released on Wednesday morning lists several communications problems with Nova Scotians and with prospective new doctor recruits.

The health department and Nova Scotia Health Authority are “doing a poor job of communicating publicly about planned changes to delivery of primary care,” Michael Pickup said in his report.

READ: Nova Scotia has ‘no plans’ for location, delivery of mental health care: auditor general

And he suggests the province “manage public expectations” and “communicate what is being done, and what can be expected in the future.”

“Results of the work to address family doctor vacancies in the province may not be evident in the short term,” Pickup said.

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He also says the information aimed at recruiting doctors is “lacking” and adds that the primary source of information for prospective doctors was a list of vacant positions.

The health authority is working with a marketing firm to improve the recruitment site, according to Pickup.

He says both the health authority and health department should update their websites with “consistent and clear information.”

WATCH: ‘He’s going to die first.’ Nova Scotia family shares story of waiting game for a family doctor

Click to play video: '‘He’s going to die first.’ Nova Scotia family shares story of waiting game for a family doctor'
‘He’s going to die first.’ Nova Scotia family shares story of waiting game for a family doctor

Pickup also says the province should prioritize patients with serious health needs who don’t have a family doctor.

Health authority not tracking recruitment success: Auditor General

While the health authority has a recruitment strategy, Pickup said it has “not determined how to measure success.”

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The latest physician resource plan forecasts a need for 512 new family doctors over 10 years.

As of October, the report said there were 55 unfilled vacancies. That doesn’t include pending vacancies, according to Pickup.

WATCH: ‘It’s either a walk-in clinic or emergency’: Nova Scotians with complex health issues and no doctor left with few options

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‘It’s either a walk-in clinic or emergency’: Nova Scotians with complex health issues and no doctor left with few options

He recommends the health authority “define and measure performance” and report the results regularly to its board. The health authority says it is in the process of implementing a quarterly reporting system.

“It’s a complex problem with multi-faceted solutions—but for those without access to a family practice and who are worried about their health, the basic need is very clear,” the health authority said in a statement.

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“As we continue to work to meet those immediate needs, we’ll make a renewed effort to communicate how our approach to team-based primary health care, will benefit patients, providers and the whole health system.”

Health Minister Randy Delorey couldn’t tell reporters how long Nova Scotians who are on the family doctor wait list should expect to sit there. But he did say the province is on track to recruit 51 family doctors this year — a goal set out by the province’s physician resource plan.

Asked what his message is to Nova Scotians who are waiting for a family doctor, Delorey said “we recognize that there’s a need to improve primary care access for Nova Scotians. That is work that is underway.”

Collaborative family practices to be in place with six years

The province has long said it plans to transition from single-doctor family practices to team-based primary care.

As of November 2017, the health authority told Pickup that there are 50 teams across the province at various stages of implementation.

The ultimate plan is to have between 70 and 78 teams across the province in place within six years, according to the report.

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