Agreement reached on temporary support program for province's doctors
Fee-for-service doctors can get base salaries if they agree to work on COVID-19 effort
The provincial government and Doctors Nova Scotia have reached a temporary agreement to help some physicians who have seen dramatic drops in income related to COVID-19.
The parties recently agreed to a program that allows fee-for-service doctors who agreed to be redeployed to work on the COVID-19 effort to be paid a base salary, along with compensation for working on the pandemic.
Participating doctors can choose between a fixed bi-weekly payment based on 80 per cent of their 2019 billings or a temporary alternative payment plan with a prorated bi-weekly payment.
They are paid for their COVID redeployment work in addition to the base salary.
Dr. Gary Ernest, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, said some doctors, particularly surgeons, experienced drastic reductions in business because of clinic and operating room closures when the pandemic hit.
"Very quickly they were having anywhere from 75 to 85 per cent drops in income," he said in a telephone interview.
COVID-19 work is in addition to other duties
But Ernest said Doctors Nova Scotia was also hearing from some family doctors whose office volumes dropped significantly because their patients were no longer comfortable attending the office, false assumptions that offices were closed, or some patients not wanting to have an appointment using telemedicine.
With doctors facing overhead for office staff, rent and other bills, Ernest said some type of temporary measure was required during the initial wave of the pandemic for doctors whose pay is based on the number of patients they see.
The agreement with the province is in place until July and will then be re-evaluated, he said.
"Hopefully, by that time, with the first wave [of COVID-19] being settled, then hopefully [operating rooms] will open up, clinics will open back up and doctors will be able to get back to a more normal — or at least on the way to normal — type of work," said Ernest.
Patients whose doctors choose to participate in the program shouldn't be concerned about no longer being able to have an office visit, said Ernest. The intent is to maintain service for people.
Of the doctors who are redeployed to work on COVID-19, the first to be called upon will be those who are least busy, said Ernest.
A spokesperson for the Health Department said the program allows the department to choose from the roster of physicians and deploy these doctors to where they are needed.