Doctors Nova Scotia demand ‘immediate action’ on physician shortages

Nova Scotia says 177 doctors from all corners of the province have so far taken on 882 new patients. File / Global News

An organization representing doctors in Nova Scotia has released a position paper calling for physician reform in the province.

The document, released Monday by Doctors Nova Scotia and a pair of groups representing medical students and residents at Dalhousie University, says “immediate action is needed” to deal with physician shortages in the province.

Doctors Nova Scotia argues that more than half of physicians in Nova Scotia — approximately 1,210 doctors — are over the age of 50.

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The province has forecasted that it will need to recruit 1,070 physicians over the next eight to 10 years to fill spots as doctors retire. But with more than 75 full-time vacancies for family physicians and 45 full-time vacancies for specialists, the report says that there are more issues than an aging physician population.

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“Without enough physicians to meet the needs of patients, practising physicians are bearing the burden, working long hours and taking on excessively heavy patient loads,” the report reads.

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“This type of work environment does not lend itself to recruiting or retaining doctors.”

The organizations say that an outdated payment model makes it difficult to recruit doctors to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia’s doctors are among the lowest paid in the country and are often the lowest paid in the Atlantic region.

“Nova Scotia must become a leader for physician compensation in Atlantic Canada,” the report reads.

“The foundation for recruiting and retaining doctors is built on competitive compensation.”

Health Minister Randy Delorey said the government hopes to address the issues raised in the paper at the upcoming negotiations between Doctors Nova Scotia and the provincial government.

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“The details [in the document] certainly frame up what we’d expect them to bring to the table,” Delorey said.

Delorey said the government did not have an estimate for what increasing physician compensation would cost the province.

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