Nova Scotia’s family doctors will get a pay boost as a result of nearly $40 million in funding announced Monday – including a $150 bonus for every new patient they take on who was previously without a doctor.
Premier Stephen McNeil said $13.9 million would go toward increasing amounts for fee-for-service and the alternative payment plan for family doctors.
The Health Department estimates that could mean an extra $10,000 to $20,000 a year for physicians due to an increase in the office fee alone.
“We have a focused investment in family medicine, which is a first critical step in solving the challenges facing Nova Scotia’s primary health system,” said Dr. Tim Holland, president-elect of Doctors Nova Scotia.
Of the money announced Monday, a day ahead of Tuesday’s provincial budget, $18.2 million is part of the $240 million end-of-year spending spree announced last week.
Under the plan, charges for visits by patients under the age of 65 will jump for the current rate of $31.72 to $36. The rate for seniors increases to $44.54 from the current charge of $40.26.
Holland said the funding would help with doctor recruitment and retention efforts as well as encouraging better ways to practise family medicine.
“This isn’t just about putting more dollars in the pockets of family doctors. This allows family doctors to practice the way they want to … and it effectively leverages technology to increase capacity within our system.”
The announcement also includes $6.6 million to encourage family doctors to develop an up-to-date patient list, a $4.2 million technology incentive, $8.5 million to support doctors using electronic medical records, and $6.4 million to encourage doctors to accept patients from the wait list.
The plan will see a one-time $150 bonus “for each patient a family doctor takes off the provincial list, or who is referred from an emergency department, or without a family doctor due to doctor retirements or relocation,” the province says.
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Dr. Heather Johnson, a family physician in a group collaborative practice with three other physicians in Bridgewater, says the money will make a difference in patient care and access.
Johnson said the use of more telephone and electronic health services will mean less of a need to see patients in person who have travel problems, who are managing chronic conditions, or who are frail and elderly.
“I will be able to allow technology to facilitate their care more easily. It will be easier for my patients and then hopefully free up some time that will allow other patients who need to see me face-to-face, easier access.”