By now, you’ve probably read that Nova Scotia’s doctors have ratified two, four-year contracts with the provincial government.
The contracts, which are retroactive to April 2015, offer 0 per cent, 0 per cent, 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent increases, as well as modest but important investments in a few key areas, such as hiring new specialists for the province and supporting doctors in delivering patient care over the telephone.
But you might be wondering what it all means for patients – people like you and your family. How does this impact the care that you receive in your doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or hospital?
Simply put, having a contract in place for doctors means that after months of negotiations, the province’s physicians – and the organizations that represent them, like Doctors Nova Scotia – can finally turn their attention away from the negotiations table and focus solely on the necessary work of improving patient care in this province.
That means ensuring that every Nova Scotian has access to a family doctor in their community.
It means focusing on recruitment and retention – making our province attractive to young physicians just entering practice, and working to ensure they stay here for the long term. And it means working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to ensure that the decisions it makes are in the best interests of you and your family – the patients it’s meant to serve.
These issues have been neglected for far too long.
Estimates show that 50,000 to 100,000 Nova Scotians do not have access to a family doctor. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe your aging parents are without a family doctor. If so, you’re not alone. Some communities have been without a doctor for months – in some cases, much longer. Physicians in small communities tell me they are worried about taking maternity leave or retiring – they’re worried their patients will be left without a replacement, because the government doesn’t seem to be placing any level of urgency on recruiting new doctors.
At the same time, new graduates I’ve spoken to are saying they want to practise medicine in Nova Scotia, but they don’t know if they are wanted, so they are choosing to move away.
Change is needed. Clearly, ensuring that every Nova Scotian has access to the health care they need means addressing these problems.
We’ll start by working with government to create a more stable and positive work environment for physicians. We’ll also work to support collaborative practices, where physicians can work together with nurse practitioners, nurses and other health-care providers. Both of these things will make it easier for patients like you to receive the level of care you deserve.
This summer, Doctors Nova Scotia and representatives of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) will start meeting with the province’s doctors, giving physicians an opportunity to share their solutions for patient care in their communities.
It’s time for us to do something about the problems facing our province’s health-care system. Now that we have these contracts in place, we can finally focus our time and energy on making changes to our health-care system that actually work for you, our patients.
Dr. Michelle Dow is President of Doctors Nova Scotia and a family doctor in Meteghan Centre, N.S. She works with five other physicians and a nurse practitioner at the Clare Health Centre, a collaborative-care clinic in Meteghan Centre. Dr. Dow was installed as Doctors Nova Scotia’s President during the association’s annual conference in June 2016.