What Do Physicians’ New Contracts Mean for Patients?


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.


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Submitted By: Audrey Grantham

I am without a doctor. My doctor retired June 30th, any inquiry I make to a doctor is “not taking on any new patients”.

Submitted By: nancy palmer

my dr retired on june 30th and no one is takin new patients and my husband has many medical conditions to not have a dr

Submitted By: Dorothy Hannam

I am very fortunate to have a family doctor for now but I am very concerned about my care once my doctor of more than thirty years retires. I hear many frustrated comments from seniors regarding the collaborative health practices and feeling like they are just a number bounced from doctor to doctor without continuity of knowledge about the individual medical history; and being forced to return repeatedly to have all their health issues dealt with since time for each visit is very limited. Many of these people must pay to have someone drive them each time depleting often very limited funds. Additionally Dalhousie University seems to have a monopoly on admitting prospective doctors into their program as well as whether new doctors get to be placed in clinicals with doctors in the province in the latter part of their training. The universities restrict the numbers of local students they admit in favour of the higher paying international students thus forcing local students to go outside the province and often outside the country to be trained. Once trained they are very often refused or overlooked when trying to come back to practice. These are people who wouldn’t need to be enticed to set up practice in the province. Doctors are not even allowed to assign their practice to a new doctor willing to take it over. I understand the high and rising costs of health care for this province and no solution is the be all and end all but as someone entering senior years it is extremely unnerving to consider my future health care.

Submitted By: Kris Bienkowski

Dorothy Hannan,
You raised a lot of very important issues, particularly about collaborative health practices! I have not seen any responses to you concerns from the Doctors NS. Have your concerns been addressed privately?

Submitted By: Doctors Nova Scotia

Hello Dorothy,
Thank you so much for your message, many Nova Scotians share your concerns.

Like you do, we believe a long-standing relationship between a patient and doctor offers the best care.

We support the concept of collaborative care clinics because it’s the way young doctors want to practice. Over time, solo and small family practices will decrease as collaborative teams and clinics are established.

With a team to support them, doctors can refer patients to another provider as appropriate, ensuring that they get the right care at the right time. It even means the physicians can occasionally take time off for professional development, sick days or vacation time, with the assurance that their patients are still cared for.

Until these collaborative teams are built, government must have a plan to replace retiring physicians who weren’t part of a collaborative practice, so that their patients continue to have good access to care.

Recruiting and retaining doctors trained in Nova Scotia or those trained abroad is challenging. Physicians are mobile and in demand, which means they can choose to practise in our province or elsewhere in Canada or abroad.

Recently we held focus groups with international medical graduates (also known as IMGs), who are seeking to practise in Nova Scotia. IMGs and Canadians who have studied abroad are finding it increasingly difficult to work in Nova Scotia. We will share our findings with government to emphasize the need for some type of program or support to help them work in Nova Scotia.

Submitted By: Doctors Nova Scotia

Kris, thank you for your comment. It was a great reminder that we had an outstanding comment to reply to.