Physician recruitment doesn’t add up

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?

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5 Responses to Physician recruitment doesn’t add up

  1. Peter Loveridge says:

    we’ve lost quite a few family physicians in the last year and three more are leaving soon. The NSHA claims to have recruited physicians, and some of our residents have stayed, but they have all opted for hospitalist/ER work, which is much better paid. No-one has started up a new family practice.

  2. buddyboy546 says:

    The waiting list for people looking for a doctor reflects only the number of people on the list. It does not include the many people who move some distance away and remain with their old doctor rather than go on the list. There are people zig-zagging across the province in this way, travelling great distances, for fear of losing the secure and established doctor that they have. The situation is much worse than the list numbers suggest.

    • Oh yeah, the official numbers are bullshit. How long does it take to reach anyone accepting names? How many work the phones? What hours are they available?

      In March when I said to a hospital employee that 48% of Kings County residents don’t have a doctor she thought that number was low.

      I have a friend in Kentville who drives to Halifax to see her doctor. I have another friend in Grand Pre who also travels to a doctor in Halifax. I drive to Windsor.

      What no one in this province talks about is the private medical concierge service offered by the former president of the NS Liberal Party. If you’re rich and connected in Halifax, no worries.

  3. Kate Seaman says:

    Recruitment is an interesting issue. Why has the province stopped the Saba med student clerkship program? There are plenty of Saba trained NS docs in US/ON who want to come back here & who should be & why aren’t they?

    • Good question. Was this cancelled by the Province or done on the recommendation of the NSHA executive? There are days when it seems the Dept. of Health and NSHA have no idea what the other is doing.

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