A quick scorecard for physician loss

The loss of doctors in Nova Scotia has less to do with retirements than crap working conditions.

Over the life of this website I have been made aware of and written about, the following departures:

2009 – Three geriatric specialists quit their Cape Breton practices. Not for retirement.

2011 – Two ER heads quit the VG in 12 months. No explanation.

2012 – A doctor told me they were one of 28 doctors who, in 23 months, quit their Cape Breton hospital practices. In Yarmouth, in 13 months six doctors quit their practices. No one from the health authorities or ministry asked any of these departing doctors why they were leaving and what could be done to alter their decision.

2013 – In January Pictou lost an orthopedic surgeon because he couldn’t get OR time, so he and his wife, a general practitioner, moved to Florida. The next month, with no money to pay her, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrea Veljkovic, who specialized in foot and ankles, left the province, taking her radiologist husband with her. They had been based at Valley Regional Hospital (VRH).

February 2013 was a big month for loss. In addition to Dr. Veljkovic, two top neuroscientists, Drs. Donald Weaver and Ivar Mendez, announced their departures. Dr. Weaver took his ten-person medical chemistry team to Toronto. Dr. Mendez, who is credited with bringing $72 million in research funds to Halifax, left for the Brain Repair Centre in Saskatoon. Other researchers who left the province include Dr. Michael Esser, who worked in Pediatric Epilepsy Research, and Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, who was a leading brain researcher.

2014 – In July a doctor recruited to practice in Digby left after a month in the community. No explanation.

2015 – An obstetrician/gynecologist quit VRH because he couldn’t get adequate OR time for his patient load. In Yarmouth, another OBGYN announced their departure. These were not retirements. The same month two Cape Breton geriatric specialists and an Antigonish OBGYN announced the closure of their practices. A French-trained doctor, who could only get work collecting blood, gave up trying to practice and left the province.

We also learned that none of the six current obstetric grads from Dal were planning to practice in the province. In April CBC reported that nine of the province’s 40 OBGYN’s were thinking of leaving the province.

The simple math is that in six years 50 family practitioners and specialists, plus over 15 medical researchers found Nova Scotia’s working conditions so bad that they quit the province. That is not a complete summary of all departures. And it doesn’t touch on retirements.

In any other business, industry or workplace the loss of that many highly educated professionals would fall on executive shoulders. But in Nova Scotia health care executives are spared responsibility for their actions and inaction.

We may have merged the system, but have we stocked it with old-style thinkers and limited any chance of effective change?

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2 Responses to A quick scorecard for physician loss

  1. Bubbie says:

    Listening to CBC’s Information a couple of weeks ago two teaching physicians, I have forgotten their names, from Dalhousie Medical Faculty stated that of sixteen graduating physicians only about five or six said they would explore the option to stay in Nova Scotia to practise. The rest of the physicians said they would go abroad and only one actually committed to stay in the province but only after some time traveling around the province, practising for short periods, to see where he would have the best fit. This does not bode well for Nova Scotia’s health Care System.

    Why is there nothing in place to compel graduating doctors to stay in Nova Scotia for at least five years? After all, I believe taxpayer dollars go toward funding university education.

    On a personal note, my ophthalmologist was forced to work two extra years before she retired, before she could find a physician to take over her practise because of the restrictions placed on the number of eye surgeries a surgeon was allowed to perform. My ophthalmologist told me, because of new technologies, she could perform four cataract surgeries per hour but was restricted to doing only one per hour. I call this the rationing of health care. No doubt, elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements fit into this category, as well.

    After listening to the frustration of one doctor from the situation in Cape Breton where there is an acute shortage of family Physicians, I will go out on a limb here and say that the government will soon make an announcement that our health care system is unsustainable in its present form and the time has come to introduce privatization to the medical system. This is what big business that has always been against public health care want. I fear their wish will soon be granted.

    • No one wants to admit it, but we do have rationing and quotas in Nova Scotia. When an orthopaedic surgeon left Kentville, Dr. Harrigan, then chief of medicine for Annapolis Valley Health, now the number two person at the merged Nova Scotia Health Authority, said that Kentville was allocated five orthopaedic surgeons. They had six, so there was no money and would be no money for that sixth surgeon. So the surgeon left the province for a place where she could be paid. Meanwhile, the province remains at the bottom of the performance list when it comes to orthopaedic surgeries. Is it any wonder why?

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