In a Facebook discussion about the post A Medical Bomb Drops in Kings County, a contributor who supplies the medical sector, listed the doctors leaving the county. Janet Knox, who worked for years in Berwick and Kentville, would know these physicians professionally, if not personally:
The current list of retiring, sick or departing doctors is this:
1. Dr. Siva is on medical leave and will not be returning to his Kentville practice.
2. Dr. J Seaman/Kentville is retiring Jan 2018
3. Dr. P. McGuire/Kingston is retiring Dec 2017
4. Dr. Ainamo/Kingston retried June 2017
5. Dr. Langille/Berwick retired this year.
6. Dr. George/Berwick closed his practice and is doing other medical work.
7. Dr. Soma/Kentville is relocating to Windsor, NS
8. Dr. Keough/New Minas recently closed his practice and has relocated
9. Dr. Bander/Digby will be retiring in 2018. (Dr. Bander is not in Kings County, but is part of the Valley medical community).
…and there will be more.
Last evening I was told that Dr. Ruddy, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Kentville, is also closing his practice.
Assuming the first eight doctors on this list have an average patient file of 2,000 (several of the longer-practicing doctors, like Dr. Seaman, will have significantly more) it’s fair to say that 16,000-to-18,000 residents of Kings County have, or are about to, become orphaned patients. In seven months 27 percent of the citizens of Kings County have lost or will lose their primary physician. They are added to the thousands of other county residents without a family physician. This could take the count of orphaned patients in Kings Couty to 50 percent of the population!
What will happen to these 30,000 people? The Annapolis Valley District Health Authority has three points of contact: Valley Regional Hospital and clinics in former hospitals in Berwick and Wolfville. Without a family physician the logical place for patients to go is to the ER. How will they cope? VRH is bursting at the seams. It is not uncommon to wait four and five hours to be seen by a doctor in the ER. That’s stressful and wasteful, not to mention, for a true emergency, damaging to a person’s health.
And don’t count on a collaborative care clinic (CCC) to provide medical salvation. Later in the week Helphealthcare will publish the unvarnished thoughts of a long-time, free-speaking physician about these.
Kings County is one of the more dynamic economic contributors to the province and region. There are significant employers here, like Michelin and several large food processors. Kings County is not only the richest agricultural area of Nova Scotia, it is one of the top three agricultural areas in Canada. It has a booming wine sector. It’s also a financial centre. It’s a major retail destination. It’s an academic (Acadia University, NSCC) and regional medical centre. Aside from the angst of not having a family doctor is the economic impact of a lack of medical professionals. The longer it takes for people to be seen by a doctor and receive care translates as time lost at work. Those on a fixed salary are costing their employer. Those paid on an hourly basis could be losing income. Companies, institutions and the overall economy could be losing millions of dollars a week as people sit in waiting rooms to be seen. Could this impact a company’s decision to invest here?
Kings County is an attractive place to live. It’s an easy commute to Halifax and the airport. It has good dining and great social life. For outdoor enthusiasts there is the Bay of Fundy, Minas Basin, Harvest Moon Trail and various lakes to explore and play with. For the intellectually-motivated, there is a rich cultural life. Traditionally there is a strong cluster of other professionals to interact and work with. Property prices are reasonable. So are rents. In other words, if you are a highly trained professional, locating your practice here means you don’t have to put your life on hold. Yet, if Kings County is having such trouble retaining and recruiting doctors, what are more remote countries facing? How desperate are others?
The dirty little reality is that the Nova Scotia Health Authority has failed miserably in keeping a key population – the doctors – happy and healthy. We have a new system, which is, alas, populated by old thinkers. To fill all the empty practices we need a change at the top.