Nova Scotia

Community navigator makes progress in effort to bring more doctors to Yarmouth area

Fourteen doctors/specialists have been hired in the Yarmouth area since a community navigator position was created a year and a half ago. But the region's doctor shortage continues to rise.

Hiring is up but 7,700 people still without a doctor

Rebecca Cassidy Rose is the community navigator in charge of doctor recruitment for the Yarmouth area. (Shawn Bourque)

It's been a year and a half since a community navigator was hired in Yarmouth to help deal with a shortage of doctors in the area.

The position, partially funded by the province, was created by the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce to showcase the local community to medical professionals.

So far, 14 new doctors/specialists have been hired.

"Doctor retention begins with the very first contact," Rebecca Cassidy Rose, the community navigator, said in a presentation she made virtually to the province's Standing Committee on Health.

"Feeling welcomed, valued and accommodated creates a real sense of ease when they are undergoing such important life decisions as where to study, practise and live."

But the number of residents in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties without a doctor is still on the rise.

In March 2019, that number was 3,466, or 5.9% of the population. Now it stands at 7,725, 13.6% of the population in the three counties. General practitioners are still needed.

Yarmouth Regional Hospital lost three anesthesiologists in 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

"A standardized Canadian licensing system would be phenomenal," Kerry Muise, a member of the chamber's board of directors, told the committee.

"If we could move physicians across this country at the drop of a hat to get them to locum in other places, hands down Nova Scotia would get some recruitment out of that."

Housing issue paramount

One of the areas being addressed is affordable housing for medical learners, such as residents, who come to Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

Rose said one company, Coastal Financial Credit Union, has stepped in to help address the housing issue.

"They are constructing a new housing project for medical learners that will contain five units designed specifically with them in mind," said Rose. "This initiative puts forward the message that says they are welcome and we are happy to have them here."

The position of community navigator is popping up in many rural areas of Nova Scotia. The duties of the job are varied.

Rose said she co-ordinates many personal tasks that give new doctors and their families an easier transition to life in their new home.

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