Doctors Nova Scotia surprised to find out province has a doctor recruitment strategy

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Doctors Nova Scotia says it was blindsided by Wednesday’s auditor general’s report that revealed Nova Scotia has a physician recruitment strategy.

The association’s CEO Nancy MacCready-Williams said it was “surprising,” “disappointing” and “troubling” that the group only found out about the strategy through the auditor general.

Michael Pickup’s report said a recruitment strategy was put in place earlier this year. MacCready-Williams said the group representing doctors wasn’t consulted on it and wasn’t told about it — even as it repeatedly called for a strategy and asked to be part of shaping it.

“We’ve been asking the health authority to be part of that strategy,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“The fact that there is a plan it just needed to be communicated was new learning for us.”

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On Wednesday, Pickup told reporters that his office shouldn’t be the one disclosing this type of “useful” information to the public.

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“It’s information really that really probably the auditor shouldn’t be explaining to folks, it should be the government itself,” he said.

Overall Pickup’s assessment was that the province is doing a “poor job” communicating with Nova Scotians about its plans to recruit family doctors and the transition to a collaborative care model.

Doctors Nova Scotia hoping to see new physician recruitment strategy

MacCready-Williams said traditionally doctors have been heavily involved in recruitment and she linked it to more success in recruiting and retaining doctors.

“Physicians in the past when there were a number of health authorities out there were very involved in the recruitment, retention process,” she said. “They worked with their communities, they worked with their health authorities and recruitment, retention was not the challenge that it is today.”

She said it’s “a little surprising and a little disappointing” that her organization had to learn about the recruitment strategy from the auditor general.

“We’d love to see the strategy,” she said. “We’d love an opportunity to comment on it and perhaps add to it.”

She said recruitment and retention of doctors is a “really complex issue” and it “requires a number of different perspectives to get the solution right.”

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As of Monday, the health authority had 71 full time openings for family doctors across the province.

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In an emailed statement a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority said “recruitment is a responsibility of NSHA.”

“Though recruitment is not part of Doctors Nova Scotia’s mandate, we recognize their role in supporting this work,” spokesperson John Gillis said.

He said the doctor’s association was consulted on two areas of the strategy: a new marketing “approach” and international recruitment.

“We consulted with (Doctors Nova Scotia) on both of these areas,” Gillis said.

And he said other parts of the strategy are “primarily internal” to the health authority. For example, measurement and reporting plans, the locum database, and the skills of the health authority’s recruiters.

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“We are working every day with doctors in communities across the province,” Gillis said.

Health Minister Randy Delorey said he couldn’t comment on the concerns raised by Doctors Nova Scotia until he spoke with its president directly.

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