Nova Scotia’s doctor deficit

Kevin Chapman with Doctors Nova Scotia told CBC’s Information Morning host Don Connolly that there are currently vacancies for 70 family physicians in the province. That’s as of December 18.

Using quick shorthand we can get a better idea of how many people are without a family physician. As a rule of thumb, most solo or dual-practice family physicians in Nova Scotia have 2,200 patients. For some longer-practicing physicians’ (the ‘old school doctor’) file numbers creep past 3,000.

Working with the basic of 70 vacancies x 2,200 = 154,000 patients without a family doctor.

Under the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s collaborative care practice model doctors will have an average patient load of 1,400. In which case 70 x 1,400 = 98,000 people without a physician.

In either scenario the 42,000 names on the NSHA list of patients waiting for a physician is a grossly understated fiction.

And what happens to people without a family physician? Their only alternative is to treat hospital ERs as a walk-in clinic. And in 2015-2016, 48 percent of ER visits in Nova Scotia were for non-emergencies. Using an ER for medical care is not good for patients. It focuses on the current concern, doesn’t develop a relationship with a medical professional who can help develop a long-term care plan and catch abnormalities before they become dangerous, and expensive. Forcing people to use the ER as their primary contact for care illustrates the level of failure of care.

The NSHA’s inaction on physician recruitment is shoving the system to a fiscal breaking point. How much longer can we afford an executive who fail to produce better patient outcomes?

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