To highlight the depth of Nova Scotia’s doctor shortage I’ve studied the 2016 census figures to provide a geographic perspective and give these statistics a sort of face. Picking up on John Lennon’s theme of imagining, imagine there are no doctors…
If Corporate Research Associate’s recent finding that 13 percent of Nova Scotians, roughly 123,500 people, don’t have access to a family physician is accurate, here’s what that means:
- imagine no one in all of Cape Breton having a physician. That’s 122,311 people. Imagine 12 hospitals and health centres without doctors.
- or imagine no doctor for the residents of nine of our 18 countries: Antigonish, Annapolis, Digby, Guysborough, Inverness, Queens, Shelburne, Victoria, Yarmouth. That’s 124,860 people. That would leave 20 hospitals and health centres without physicians.
- consider the 132,525 people who live in Kings, Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne and Queens counties without family physicians. That’s a doctor-less Southwest Nova. Not only that, there would be 16 hospitals and health centres without access to a doctor.
If the actual number of Nova Scotians is the 155,415 orphaned patients suggested by the October 2016 Freedom of Information request, then stretch the imagination to this doctor-less geography:
- most of Southwest Nova (Kings, Annapolis, Digby, Shelburne, Queens and Lunenburg counties) without a physician. That’s 155,232 residents. That’s the bulk of our agricultural, fishing and forestry sectors at risk.
- imagine driving from the New Brunswick border by Amherst to Meat Cove on the tip of Cape Breton without crossing any community with a doctor. Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish, Richmond, Inverness and Victoria counties have a population of 156,214 Nova Scotians. They’re home to 18 hospitals and health centres.
- finally, imagine no doctor for the 156,150 residents of Halifax’s commuter counties: Annapolis, Kings, Hants and Lunenburg.
Imagine driving through county after county without a single physician available. This is how severe our doctor shortage is. It’s more than being down a few physicians here and there.
There aren’t just the current vacancies to fill, there is a rising wave of physicians about to retire, who must be replaced. Our current health care executives are not adequately addressing the issue of physician retention or recruitment.
And given how badly physicians are paid and treated in this province, why would they want to practice here.