Physician recruitment numbers up — questions raised around unique circumstances for local hospitals

·3 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – The province announced on June 22 that more than 160 physicians were recruited and started working across Nova Scotia between April 2021 and March 2022. Of those, 75 are family doctors and 88 are specialists. There were also 68 physician departures last year, resulting in a net gain of 95 physicians.

“Through the collective work of our recruitment teams and many partners, more doctors than ever chose Nova Scotia last year,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson. “We are doing things differently and making innovative changes to improve healthcare for patients, doctors and all healthcare professionals.”

In a press conference with Thompson on that day, The Journal sought to clarify some concerns raised in relation to physician recruitment for Guysborough Memorial Hospital (Guysborough) and Eastern Memorial Hospital (Canso).

At the June 1 committee of the whole meeting held in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG), CAO Barry Carroll asked if council wanted to revisit the MODG’s $100,000 incentive for physician recruitment in light of the announcement last March of the Primary Care Physician Incentive Program, which offers $125,000 from the province.

During council discussion, CAO Carroll said he hadn’t gotten clarification yet from the province if new physician recruits could access both incentive programs.

An email from Nova Scotia Health after the June 22 press conference, supplied the following information regarding this question: “The physician would not be eligible for the Primary Care Physician Incentive Program if they accepted the offer from the Municipality. Both the municipal signing bonus and the provincial incentive require a return of service agreement, which cannot be ‘stacked’ or completed at the same time. However, if the physician fulfilled the return of service commitment for the provincial Primary Care Physician Incentive Program, they could then pursue another incentive opportunity with the community.”

Another concern about local physician recruitment relates to filling positions in Canso. Bill MacMillan, a member of the Canso Health Care Advocacy Group, told The Journal on June 3 that the group had concerns that Nova Scotia Health’s advertisement for physicians in Canso doesn’t clearly explain the model of care at Eastern Memorial Hospital, which is a full-time, one week on, three weeks off rotation.

During the press conference, The Journal asked if Nova Scotia Health would assist in maintaining that special model of care by clarifying the employment opportunity. An answer was provided by email on June 23, stating, “For those positions, there are currently three postings. Two with no specific schedule details, one with an optional rotation for week on/week off. The concept behind this is to cast a wide net to recruit to this hard-to-fill position. We are recruiting for two positions and also seeking support in a more flexible week on/week off rotation which may be more appealing to a locum or temporary support. NSH will be following up with local physicians on the posting to ensure the wording is to preference.”

Recruitment efforts are continuing to fill 149 physician vacancies in the province (as of May 31), which include 60 specialty and 89 family medicine doctors.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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