Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia government readies plan to address doctor shortage

A plan to be released by the provincial government in the coming weeks seeks to address doctor shortages in certain parts of the province by having temporary-replacement doctors do stints in multiple areas.

Health minister hopes tour of underserved areas will also help recruitment

Health Minister Leo Glavine will soon release a short-term plan for dealing with doctor shortages in some parts of the province. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's health minister hopes a new short-term strategy to address doctor shortages in certain parts of the province could also have recruitment benefits.

Leo Glavine said last month he would soon release a plan to help bridge the period between now and when the Nova Scotia Health Authority hopes to have collaborative primary-care practices established across the province, a transition that could take up to 10 years.

A possible recruitment tool

Glavine said during a recent interview the plan is in its final stages and should be ready for release in several weeks. He said it would deal with "a very different approach to locums" for communities where recruitment is the biggest challenge.

Typically, a locum (a temporary stand-in) is something a doctor arranges through Medavie Blue Cross to allow him or her to take up to 30 days off from practice at a time while having another doctor see patients. The health authority can also request locum support within a department or program if there is a need for coverage, primarily in a vacancy situation or if there was a need to cover shifts in an emergency department, for example.

What the minister and his department is proposing, however, would be something different.

A new approach

Whereas a conventional locum would see a doctor go to one place to work for a fixed amount of time, the pending announcement would be a tour, of sorts, that would see a doctor put in stints at several sites in one contract.

"We have doctors that, you know, would perhaps like to spend time in a number of communities before they actually settle on taking up a more permanent [role] or a plan for a longer-term stay in a community," said Glavine. "So we're going to work with doctors who want to investigate a number of communities, and so hopefully we can build something around that."

Glavine declined to provide further details until the announcement is ready. However, from information previously released by the health authority and the department, it's known the three areas in Nova Scotia with demonstrated family doctor shortages are Digby and Shelburne counties and parts of Cape Breton.