Nova Scotia

Doctor wants to see family practice anesthesia role come to Nova Scotia

An Antigonish, N.S.-based doctor believes bringing a role common out West to this side of the country could boost health-care services in rural parts of Nova Scotia.

Family doctors with additional training a potential solution to specialist shortages

Dr. Jeremy Hillyard says bringing family practice anesthesia to Nova Scotia is a way to address service needs in rural parts of the province. (CBC)

An Antigonish, N.S.-based doctor believes bringing a role common out West to this side of the country could boost health-care services in rural parts of Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is currently advertising for six anesthesiologists. Dr. Jeremy Hillyard, site physician lead at St. Martha's Regional Hospital, said one option could be permitting family practice anesthesia.

The role, which is common in places such as British Columbia, is filled by a family doctor who has done additional training to receive a certificate of added competence in anesthesiology from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Hillyard, who was at the national rural and remote medicine conference last week in Halifax helping with recruiting efforts, said potential candidates are interested in working that way here.

"They say to me, 'Why don't you do that in Nova Scotia?'"

Easing on-call workloads

Hillyard said the role is especially useful in rural areas, where burnout can be a problem when there aren't enough specialist anesthesiologists at a site, which in turn limits the amount of work that can be performed.

"I think people tend to think it's one or the other, but I think you can have a mixture," Hillyard said in an interview Friday.

"If you have a smaller location where there's perhaps a lower volume of work, you can have a mixture of anesthetists, say, and family practice anaesthetists, so that eases the on-call workload a little bit."

A spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority said talks about the idea are happening.

Possible retention tool

A group that included senior leaders from the perioperative program and anesthesia and surgical leads from across the province, as well was family physicians met recently to discuss the issue.

"Introducing these roles would not be an immediate or simple solution, however the results of this meeting will be reviewed further at the next health authority medical advisory committee," Carla Adams said in an email.

Hillyard said he hopes those talks result in favourable action, and the sooner the better.

"It will help to retain specialist anesthetists if we can give them some relief on call."

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca