Nova Scotia’s family physician recruitment plans don’t add up. The Government and Nova Scotia Health Authority don’t seem on the same page.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s list of “career opportunities” suggest it seeks to hire family physicians on a one-for-one basis. A physician retires or moves, the NSHA posts an opening. Hiring on a one-for-one basis only exacerbates the province’s doctor shortage. The rule of thumb in Nova Scotia is that most family physicians care for 2,000 patients. Longer-practicing doctors have almost double that number of patients. My personal physician, in his early 40s, has 3,800 patients.
New doctors are being recruited with work-life balance in mind. To that end, new recruits are expected to handle a patient load of 1,350 people. That’s one third fewer patients than the bulk of family physicians in Nova Scotia see.
On April 6, at a community event I mentioned this to an MLA and suggested we should be hiring 1.5 doctors for every opening. He responded by saying, “We should be hiring TWO doctors for every one that leaves.”
On April 27th, in responding to a television reporter’s questions about the provincial doctor shortage and Inez Rudderham’s video about her journey with cancer in Nova Scotia, Premier McNeil said his Annapolis riding was losing six doctors and “we should be hiring twice that number” of doctors.
What the Government is advocating is not what the NSHA is doing.
The Premier’s comment means the NSHA should be hiring 12 family doctors for Annapolis County. The NSHA is only advertising for three physicians. In Kings County, which lost nine family physicians between June 2017 and February 2018, but is getting three doctors in November, the NSHA is looking for five full-time and one part-time family physician.
The net loss of family doctors in those two counties is 12, but the NSHA only sees the need for 8.5 physicians.
That part-time physician opening is one of 19 part-time positions across the province. This is curious because Doctors Nova Scotia says they haven’t a definition for a part-time physician. The best guess is that this would be half of a full-time physician’s patient load, so 675 people. Whatever a part-time physician’s duties are, the NSHA appears not to have transmitted them to DoctorsNS.
Adding up the patient loads of the 12 Annapolis and Kings County doctors who have left or announced their departure means 33,000 patients are seeking a family physician. However, the NSHA recruitment goals would only provide a full-time family physician for 11,475 people. That leaves 21,525 “orphaned patients”. This doesn’t include those residents who didn’t have a family doctor before these departures.
The question remains: if new doctors are expected to see one-third fewer patients than those they replace, why aren’t we advertising more open positions? And why are the Government and NSHA so far apart on our needs?