Arthur Parsons

Arthur Parsons will retire next month after 45 years in medicine. He says he can't find a successor. (CBC)

A retiring family doctor in Halifax says he's having a hard time selling his life's work because, in his experience, few medical school graduates are willing to take on a family practice in Nova Scotia.

Arthur Parsons said despite so many Nova Scotians seeking a family doctor, it’s not a lucrative line of work.

Parsons will retire next month after 45 years in medicine. He said he searched for two years for a successor, but hasn't been able to attract anyone.

“Years ago when I started practising medicine everybody used to say you'll sell your practice when you retire. Well, I don't know of anybody in the past 15 years who's actually sold a practice in medicine. You can't even give them away,” he said.

Parsons said he has sent out letters to medical schools and advertised in medical journals, but no one has stepped forward to take over the practice he founded. Not even when he offered to give it away.

"You would sign your name to a lease for five years, and you would commit yourself to practising medicine for that length of time. No cost," he said.

'I don't know of anybody in the past 15 years who's actually sold a practice in medicine. You can't even give them away.'- Dr. Arthur Parsons

Parsons said family doctors do not make enough money to be an attractive career route. He added that government regulations and paperwork also make family medicine unattractive

The doctor said walk-in clinics are more attractive than a full practice to today's graduates.

“So if you’re a young doctor and you’re graduating now, what would you like to do? Well you don’t have to sign a lease, somebody who owns the clinic signs the lease. You go walk in you, you practise medicine. If it’s something that’s complicated you just say go see your family doctor,” he said.

“You treat all the urgent stuff, the stuff that’s quick and easy. Why put your name and money on the line if you can do that kind of thing?”

Growing issue

Kevin Chapman, director of health policy and promotion with Doctors Nova Scotia, said between 800 and 900 physicians will need to be replaced in the next 10 years to compensate for retirements.

Most will be family doctors.

"We see more and more of it now, as physicians who have practised for 30 to 40 years or so retire," he said.

"We've had a couple more in Sydney, and it's the same thing, where they haven't been able to recruit a new physician to take over the practice."