NOT IM­PRESSED

How many of these prospec­tive spe­cial­ists have ac­tu­ally signed and com­mit­ted to Cape Bre­ton?

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - Michael MacDon­ald Dr. Michael MacDon­ald is the vi­cepres­i­dent of the Cape Bre­ton Med­i­cal Staff As­so­ci­a­tion.

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. “

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