Nova Scotia's 3,500 physicians continue to remain at risk of "burnout," with a number of them feeling unable to care for patients in the way they want to, according to Doctors Nova Scotia. The province's health minister, meanwhile, says while there are no simple solutions, some changes are already underway.

In an interview with Information Morning Cape Breton, Health Minister Randy Delorey said it is important to recognize the reality behind the concerns.

"But I've met with physicians around the province in the last number of weeks and although there is some commonality in the themes … in some locations, people are seeing the changes," he said.

Delorey's comments come after Doctors Nova Scotia released a report — entitled Healing Nova Scotia: Recommendations for a thriving physician workforce — that described the five key problems facing physicians, and suggested ways to solve them.

It was based on interviews with 235 physicians in 24 communities, and found more than half of participants felt unable to properly care for their patients.

"Right now, physicians are at risk of burnout," CEO Nancy MacReady-Williams told Information Morning. "The workloads are incredibly demanding because of the physician shortage in the province."

That puts patient care at risk, she said, because those doctors are in danger of leaving the province or closing their practices.

Nancy MacCready-Williams

Nancy MacCready-Williams, CEO for Doctors Nova Scotia says her association has created a blueprint for solving health care problems. (CBC)

MacCready-Williams was also critical of the move to one provincial health authority, saying there is "a lack of clarity on who makes decisions and how physicians can access care and services for their patients."

Delorey acknowledged that communication is one of the challenges with amalgamation. He said the IWK Health Centre and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) are already working to improve communication with front-line doctors and to ensure local voices are heard.  

Doctors' fees

Doctors Nova Scotia wants the province to review how it compensates physicians, arguing that while fees have stayed the same, the costs of running a practice have risen. 

Delorey said there is some flexibility in the area of incentives, but the pay structure is complex. "You can imagine the diversity of services being offered by physicians … and that would be an area that would require quite a bit of study."

As for the suggestion that a physician co-ordination council be created — one that would include Doctors Nova Scotia, the Department of Health, the NSHA, the IWK and Dalhousie Medical School — Delorey said: "Before we can consider moving forward, we would have to talk to all the stakeholders to ensure the interest."

The province has been listening to doctors, Delorey said, citing a change that lets doctors decide where they want to practise instead of being told by the NSHA.

He said he's been getting good feedback from physicians who say they are "starting to see some change and some improvements."

MacReady-Williams said Doctors Nova Scotia wants to work with health care leaders across the system to address the problems uncovered by its survey and to promote further improvements.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton