As a rural family doctor who has practised comprehensive care for 37 years, Dr. Ernest has the skills and experience to help doctors address the variety of issues facing them.
His busy practice in Liverpool involves office practice, hospital inpatient care, house calls and nursing home visits.
He typically works 80 to 90 hours per week, starting his day early in the morning and wrapping up late at night. “I’m no stranger to practice and life stress and, oh yes, extreme fatigue,” he says.
Dr. Ernest moved from Montreal to attend Dalhousie Medical School in 1976 and completed his family medicine residency in 1982. He and his wife Colleen moved to Liverpool, where he’s been practising medicine ever since.
Dr. Ernest has been involved in medical politics at the local, provincial and national levels for most of his career. He has a long history of involvement with Doctors Nova Scotia. He was chair of the policy and health issues committee; represented the association on the committee that developed standards for Medical Assistance in Dying; and served as a member of the Board of Directors, among other roles.
In addition, he is an assistant professor of family medicine at Dalhousie University, and has held various roles with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Medical Association. He has also served two terms as chief of staff at his local hospital.
challenging Path ahead
Dr. Ernest knows the challenge ahead is significant. Approximately 100,000 Nova Scotians don’t have a family physician and there are about 200 physician vacancies across the province – for both family physicians and specialists.
“The health-care environment in Nova Scotia is currently in a state of crisis,” says Dr. Ernest.
“Many of my colleagues are dealing with various levels of burnout, contributed to by a lack of physician engagement, the sense of not being valued, excess workload, fatigue, too much paperwork and frustration at our patients’ inability to access health-care resources in a timely manner.”
In the role of president, Dr. Ernest wants to help physicians become more engaged in the health-care system.
“It is critical for physicians to be engaged in health system changes, to be involved and to be energized by what they are doing day to day – not only for reasons of personal mental health but also because we need doctors to be involved if we’re truly going to address the current and future challenges facing our health-care system,” he said.
“This creates a win-win situation for both the medical community and the provincial health-care environment and ultimately it will serve to improve the health of our patients.”