Nova Scotia is prepared to be more flexible about where doctors choose to practise in the province, Health Minister Randy Delorey said Monday in Sydney.
The minister, who's touring the province to get a sense of local health-care issues, said he's hearing local concerns about lack of access to primary health care and the need for specialists.
His first stop on the tour was in Cape Breton, where doctor recruitment has been an especially thorny situation.
Speaking with reporters, Delorey said the province is implementing some of the promises it made during the election campaign, particularly around loosening restrictions on where doctors can practise.
"We did acknowledge that more flexibility needed to be brought into the system, particularly when it comes to physicians identifying where they want to practise. So that work is underway," Delorey said.
Doctors who want to set up a new family practice must receive approval from the Nova Scotia Health Authority first, a system the health authority said helps avoid a concentration of physicians in one area and shortages in other places.
Sydney anesthesiologist Dr. Craig Stone welcomes a loosening of the rules. He's one of the doctors who has been lobbying for improved health care in Cape Breton.
"That is wonderful. Physicians will come here," he said. "They'll set up practice in the community they choose and they'll be happy being here. That is an excellent step in the right direction."
Stone said if he had a chance to speak with the minister, he would suggest a return to more local control over health care. He added Cape Breton has been losing health services and specialists.
"We need local solutions to our local problems. We need local people in charge with authority to make local changes," he said. "It seems we are losing what we've had."
Collaborative care practices could fill some of those gaps, but there will be a transition period, Delorey said. The collaborative care model brings together a variety of health-care professionals, such as family doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, dietitians and others to provide better care and free up doctors to spend more time with patients who need to see them.
And doctor recruitment will be enhanced by adding more residency seats here as well as placements for students who study medicine outside Canada, Delorey said.