New campaign urges doctors to come to Nova Scotia

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The Nova Scotia government has launched a recruitment campaign to bring more doctors to the province, which has long struggled to attract and retain health-care workers.

The campaign — “Come Home to Nova Scotia” — involves a website where doctors can sign up and be contacted by a recruitment specialist within 24 hours. Those who qualify can receive a conditional offer of employment within 10 business days, the province said in a release Monday.

“I’ve heard from doctors who moved away to train and many really want to come home,” Premier Tim Houston said in the release.

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“I want them to know that we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to make healthcare better for patients, doctors and all healthcare professionals. I am happy to speak personally to doctors if that will help convince them to come home.”

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The release said recruiting and retaining doctors was one of the key themes during the Speak Up for Health-Care tour in the fall, where Houston and Nova Scotia’s health minister toured the province to speak with health-care workers about the challenges facing them.

As of February, there were 86,050 Nova Scotians on the wait-list for a family doctor, representing about 8.6 per cent of the population.

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The release also said the province will increase its budget for physician incentives by nearly $10 million and has created two new programs to recruit doctors and retain graduates.

One of those is the Primary Care Physician Incentive Program, which encourages doctors to establish a family practice outside the central health zone.

“Doctors who qualify can earn up to $125,000 in incentives — $25,000 when they sign the agreement and $20,000 per year for the next five years,” the release said. “These payments will be made at the end of each year after key targets are met.”

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As well, the new Specialist Physician Incentive Program offers the same incentives to specialists who establish a practice outside the Central Zone.

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The release said those programs replace existing programs, though there are also educational incentives for physicians who remain in Nova Scotia after graduation.

The province has also established a team of navigators to help doctors and health-care professionals get the information they need to support their move to Nova Scotia.

“Physician recruitment is extremely competitive, so I’m pleased to see that Nova Scotia’s recruiters now have more tools in their toolbox,” Dr. Heather Johnson, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, said in a release.

“We hope to work with government to ensure these new incentives are administered in a way that fully supports the needs of physician recruits.”

This campaign is in addition to an earlier campaign launched in December 2021 to bring health-care workers and skilled tradespeople to the province.

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