How many of these prospective specialists have actually signed and committed to Cape Breton?
More doctors are coming to Cape Breton but one local physician is underwhelmed. Find out why.
Waking up on Friday to the headline “Recruitment efforts lure 16 doctors to Cape Breton,” I became joyfully optimistic.
However, I quickly rubbed my eyes and took a second glance. I had almost been deceived yet again by the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s (NSHA) inaccurate and deceptive reports of our recruitment and retention situation here in Cape Breton.
During a public rally a few months previous, I, along with several of my colleagues, had some fairly simple and fair asks of the NSHA and Department of Health and Wellness. We wanted transparency, local leadership and a true depiction of facts and figures when portrayed to the general public.
It is very easy for an average physician to be duped by the statistics released by the NSHA. How could we expect the general public to be any different?
For example, if a large IT company has $100 million in revenue but $125 million in expenses, should we only disclose the income and marvel at their success? There is always more than meets the eye, and the general public deserves to be armed with the correct information so that they can ask the difficult questions and receive honest, transparent answers in return.
On review of yesterday’s news there appear to be four family physicians and 12 specialists recruited since the public rallies were held during the election period.
While this may not be a lie, it is certainly not transparent, nor honest. There are four new family physicians coming to Cape Breton. However, two of these physicians are return of service (meaning they owe a defined period of time to the province in exchange for training). How many were recruited since the medical community spoke out in May?
Some of these people have actually been paraded in the media during previous recruitment announcements, as they were recruited over a year ago. Is this misrepresentation an attempt to improve community morale, or perhaps to ease pressure now that the NSHA is finally starting to feel some angst from the general public? I can think of some 33,000 Nova Scotians who should have reason to be upset.
The specialists on the way, by and large, are also previous recruits now being paraded as recent statistics. While we welcome them with open arms, it would be wise to contact them (and all recent recruits, for that matter) and see why they chose to come to Cape Breton. Was it the recruitment efforts of the NSHA or was it the relationships they built with a small group of physicians. How has their transition been? Do they feel supported by the NSHA now that they are practicing?
It is safe to say that the majority of recent recruitment successes are from physicians recruiting physicians, not the NSHA.
More importantly, what is the net change in specialists on our island? How many of these prospective specialists have actually signed and committed to Cape Breton?
While it is great to talk about our influx, it needs to be in a context that paints a true and honest picture for our public. What fields are these specialists practicing in? How many of them are infectious disease specialists, geriatricians, or child and adolescent psychiatrists? While the general public is aware that we have vacancies in all three of those specialties, are they also aware that we actually have zero physicians practicing in any of those areas of medicine in Cape Breton currently? Are they aware that our intensive care unit is holding on by a thread while our local, dedicated intensivists are working an unsustainable schedule in order to keep our unit open? Why should the care of our seniors, children with mental health concerns or our critically ill be valued less in Cape Breton than elsewhere in the province?
Perpetually sending physicians from Halifax to apply a band-aid to a hemorrhage is not a sustainable solution. Although I value the contributions of these dedicated folks travelling each month, I value the longevity of our local physicians and sustainability of our local health care even more.
Frustrations aside, there are aspects of Friday’s news that I can support. We need to have community engagement from local businesses, the hospital foundation and the general public and to date they have been most supportive. We still have hope. We can improve and should strive to do so every day. We have a dynamic new recruitment coordinator who brings versatility and motivation to a job so desperately in need of change. We have many young physicians coming to Cape Breton for clinical exposure during various stages of their training, and grassroots programs to target them will pay dividends down the road.
We are also bursting with eager, homegrown physicians who genuinely want to improve recruitment and retention to our island.
What we need to do, however, is be transparent and honest with you, the general public, in the presentation of recruitment statistics. As physicians, the key component we need is the presence of local leadership with true decision-making capacity – not simply the perception that it exists.
These requests should not seem like such unreasonable asks for members of our government. We all deserve better.
“I can think of some 33,000 Nova Scotians who should have reason to be upset. “