On their way
New doctors coming to Cape Breton within next six months
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says it has recruited 16 new doctors who will arrive in Cape Breton within the next six months, but one local physician says serious deficits remain in critical areas of care.
The authority announced Thursday that five new doctors started practising in Cape Breton in July, with 11 more having committed to come.
Four are family doctors and 12 are specialists, including in psychiatry, radiology and emergency. The doctors that have already arrived include two family doctors, an emergency room doctor, a cardiologist, and an ear, nose and throat specialist, Tim Guest, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s vicepresident of integrated health services and chief nursing officer, said in an interview.
There are also 10 more site visits scheduled for doctors who have expressed interest in Cape Breton.
“A really important message that we want to get across with this announcement is the collaboration with the physicians in the local area and the community, there’s a real interest on behalf of the community to help recruit and retain physicians and I think that’s really paying off for us,” Guest said.
They are continuing to recruit for additional family doctors as well as specialists in Cape Breton, he said.
Dr. Jeanne Ferguson, a geriatric psychiatrist, said Thursday it’s good to see new doctors arrive but there remain shortages in key areas, including vascular surgery and the lack of an infectious disease specialist.
“We’re still missing some critical components here,” she said. “I’m glad these doctors are here, that’s great, but it doesn’t address these issues.”
Ferguson said it would also be important for health authority officials to sit down with representatives of the Cape Breton medical staff association. Those conversations would give administrators a good idea of what is happening on the ground, Ferguson said. The doctors held a rally in May in Sydney Mines that attracted hundreds of CBRM residents concerned about the physician shortages.
Guest said the public comments made by those doctors did not have an impact on the NSHA’s recruitment efforts in Cape Breton.
“We’re taking more of a longterm approach to how we do our recruitment,” Guest said. “The reality is recruitment of physicians is a national issue, it’s not new, we’ve been needing to deal with it for many years and unfortunately we have a blip where we have a bigger challenge than what maybe we’ve had in the past, but I would say that really hasn’t had a huge impact on our approach.”
Guest said he believes doctors are encouraged by the interest shown by other physicians and the current recruitment effort is seeing positive momentum.
“I know the current situation is stressful for them and will continue to be for a while and I would say that we’re headed in the right direction but does this solve this current challenge? No,” Guest said.
In a post–cabinet scrum and teleconference Thursday, Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey also said the cooperation of other local healthcare professionals and the community is key to retention.
“When you set out to a new community, wherever that happens to be, the more welcoming the community is the more you integrate and settle in that community,” he said.
Several local doctors have said that in the shift to a provincewide health authority, the local voice has been lost. Delorey said the NSHA has met with Doctors Nova Scotia, which represents physicians across the province.
“These are opportunities to again ensure that physicians and other health-care professionals know that their voices are being heard,” he said.
Delorey said part of the Liberal platform in the spring election called for the NSHA to hold its meetings across the province that would provide opportunities for conversations with local doctors and there are senior officials with the authority based in Sydney.
“They would presumably be accessible to those physicians and other health care professionals,” he said.
In a news release, Dr. Rex Dunn, a member of the Cape Breton recruitment committee, attributed part of the recruitment success to help from the local business community and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation.
Local businessperson Stuart MacLeod arranged financial support for a video featuring Cape Breton landmarks and testimonials from local doctors to use as a recruiting tool.
Guest said he believes connections to the local community help to retain doctors.
Current vacancies can be viewed on the health authority’s website at http://www. nshealth.ca/physician.