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Experienced family doctor chimes in on support she feels is needed to keep doctors in N.S.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia government announces doctor incentive changes' Nova Scotia government announces doctor incentive changes
WATCH: The Nova Scotia government just announced new changes to incentive programs in hopes of encouraging new doctors to stay and practice anywhere in the province. Alexa MacLean reports – Apr 18, 2018

A family doctor with over two decades of experience practicing in Nova Scotia feels the government needs to offer new doctors more than just financial support in order to give them the resources they need to be successful working in the province.

“It’s going to be very difficult to jump in and look after 1,000 patients that have not had a doctor in two or three years.  I really think the government should take the next step and offer [new doctors] to link with an older doctor, or somebody with more experience so that can mentor them,” Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan [AJ] said, a family physician based in Halifax.

The provincial government has made changes to incentive programs aimed at recruiting and retaining doctors in Nova Scotia.

Prior to this week, incentive programs were only available to doctors willing to practice in rural communities. That door has now been opened to any location in the province, including urban communities.

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The province says that geographic restrictions on its tuition relief program, family medicine bursary and debt assistance plan have been removed, allowing urban communities in the province to have a better chance at recruiting family doctors.

“We need family doctors in urban and rural communities. Removing these restrictions and expanding eligibility offers more choice and added incentive to practise in Nova Scotia,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey in a Tuesday press release.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia expands doctor incentive program in hope of improving recruiting in urban communities

While Dr. AJ praises the government’s lifting of restrictions to the incentive program, but she feels there is also a gap in addressing the vast amount of family physicians gearing up for retirement.

“These are steps in the right direction but they are not going to do everything that we need in order to retain doctors that are older, that we can’t actually afford to let them retire just yet and we still need young doctors to come in because we know the older doctors can’t hold on forever,” she said.

Just over 45,000 people are registered on a family physician waiting list as of April 1, according to data from the Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

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