April 5, 2019 5:28 pm

N.S. Health Authority hopes to make up ground at recruitment event

WATCH: Halifax is hosting the National Rural and Remote Medicine course. Last year, the NSHA was criticized for having no representation at the event. But as Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, the health authority is hoping to make up some ground.

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After taking some heat in 2018 for failing to attend a major national doctor recruiting event, the Nova Scotia Health Authority is hoping to make up ground at the 2019 edition.

The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada’s annual Rural and Remote Medicine Course was hosted in Halifax this week, and features a recruitment fair with representation from across the country.

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Last year, the NSHA said it skipped the event – hosted in nearby Newfoundland – because it was too expensive. This time around, it helped negotiate a reduced registration rate for local participants, to ensure robust representation.

“They got the word out and the communities responded,” said Dr. Jeremy Hillyard, speaking on behalf of the NSHA. “I’m just pleased that we’re here this year, and I put in a plea that we need to be here every year, because you don’t tend to sign people up on the spot.

“It’s an ongoing process, relationship-building – so we need to be here every year as they’re students, residents, and finally, when they’re ready to move into practice.”

READ MORE: Medical school graduate says more residency spots needed in N.S.

Hillyard described a number of challenges when it comes to recruiting doctors to rural Nova Scotia, including complex paperwork for licensing and privileges, and a lack of flexibility in available positions.

One example of the latter, he explained, is the province’s emphasis on having full-time anesthetists, rather than those who split their time with a family physician practice.

“They’re saying, ‘You’ve got vacancies in anesthesia in Nova Scotia,’ and I say yes, and they say, ‘Why can’t we come and work here?’ and I say I don’t know,” he told Global News.

Nova Scotia’s challenges have not gone unnoticed either – Dr. Margaret Tromp, president of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, said it appears the province is “struggling quite a bit” compared to other parts of Canada.

“I think some areas do better than others, it’s sometimes based on local political issues that are going on,” she explained. “I don’t understand all the local ins and outs, I don’t believe it’s purely because of ruralness, I believe that there’s some other issues going on.”

WATCH: Doctor shortage continues to be an issue for Nova Scotia

She said Labrador, for example, is much more isolated that rural Nova Scotia, but still has enough doctors to go around.

“It’s not purely the ruralness, it’s whether physicians feel that they’re support in the communities, whether they have good facilities to work in.”

More than 750 medical professionals attended the conference over four days. Recruiters from Digby, Port Hawkesbury, Amherst and Pictou, N.S. were among them.

Sarah Boudreau, a pharmacist and recruiter for Port Hawkesbury, said she was pleased to have support from NSHA to attend this year’s event after last year’s lack of Nova Scotia representation.

“They met with us a few weeks before in the town, they met with our local counsellors and mayor and talked about why it would be important and how they could help support us and we can help support them. So it actually has become a good relationship, so there are some positives that have come out of that,” she said.

READ MORE: N.S. adds over a dozen specialist residency seats at Dalhousie medical school

She said her town is still learning what makes an attractive package for new doctor candidates, and has benefited from the opportunity to connect with young potential.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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