Nova Scotia

No exposures mean doctor isolation pay not needed, says N.S. health minister

Health Minister Leo Glavine is defending his department's decision to axe a program that paid physicians to isolate because of the pandemic, saying there's been no exposure to COVID on the job during the second wave.

Former program paid doctors who had to isolate after being exposed to COVID-19 at work

Some doctors who are exposed to COVID-19 at work will no longer be paid while isolating. (napocska/Shutterstock)

Health Minister Leo Glavine is defending his department's decision to axe a program that paid some Nova Scotia physicians for their time in isolation, saying there's been no exposure to COVID on the job during the second wave.

The province announced the immediate end of the isolation program last week, sparking criticism from doctors. The program paid them for their time in isolation if they were exposed to COVID while working.

"The first wave, of course, had a number of physicians have COVID contact," said Glavine. "We have not had that as far as we know into the second wave."

The isolation program was specifically designed to help over 500 physicians, including those paid under a fee-for-service plan. They include some family physicians, anesthesiologists and surgeons.

The province said most of those physicians can work from home and offer virtual health care while quarantining. Fee codes for virtual care, which allow doctors to be paid for their services, were extended Wednesday

Leo Glavine says with no one in hospital, the risk to doctors right now is low. (CBC)

Glavine said the vast majority of COVID patients in the second wave are younger and have been isolating at home. As of Wednesday, there was no one hospitalized with COVID in Nova Scotia.

"We know that there is certainly no need for the isolation so far into the second wave," he said. 

If necessary, Glavine said the government would revisit the issue.

'Ill-advised' timing

Nova Scotia Health said nine employees have tested positive for COVID in the second wave.

Last week, it reported 29 health-care workers were in isolation after being exposed by other staff on the job. They are all expected to be back to work on Thursday. 

The health authority does not break down the numbers by role, so it's unknown if any were physicians.

Doctors Nova Scotia, the organization that represents physicians in the province, said the government's cancellation of the program was ill-advised and some physicians were "understandably upset" by it.

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