Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia doctors vote in support of new contract with government

Doctors in Nova Scotia have voted in favour of a new contract negotiated with the provincial government, according to their association website.

80 per cent of doctors who voted supported the agreement

Nova Scotia doctors have agreed to a funding contract with the provincial government. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Doctors in Nova Scotia have voted in favour of a new contract negotiated with the provincial government.

The two sides spent almost a year negotiating the details. The deal, which applies to about 2,800 doctors, is for four years and includes increases of zero, zero, one and 1.5 per cent to doctor compensation, along with investments in areas such as hiring new specialists and supporting patient care by phone.

Lack of progress

Doctors Nova Scotia president Dr. Michelle Dow said physicians are pleased the negotiations are complete but disappointed by the lack of progress in areas such as recruitment and retention, addressing primary care reform and access to operating rooms.

Still, Dow sees the end of negotiations as the beginning for dialogue among the parties and a chance to improve the working relationship.

"During the process of negotiations, the relationship between our partners . . . that collaborative relationship we had in the past, to say the least it was quite strained and there was not a lot of communications since November of last year," she said.

"We really need to work together. It's not just one association that's going to make it work."

Majority support

Eighty per cent of voting doctors supported the master agreement, and 87 per cent of voting clinical and academic funding plan members voted for their agreement. Voter turnout was 62 per cent, a big increase from the last contract, said Dow.

The province and Doctors Nova Scotia came to an agreement on a four-year contract at the end of May, a draft of which was obtained by CBC. The last agreement expired on March 31, 2015. 

Need to be at the table

Dow said it's vital for doctors to be involved as the provincial health authority plans the overhaul of the primary-care system, with a move toward more collaborative care practices.

"It's the most crucial part and I think we have to be there."

Many questions on that issue remain, said Dow, including who would pay for what parts of the new service, and how collaborative teams will come together.

Difficult negotiations

Concluding negotiations was a key step to addressing the big questions facing the system, said Dow.

"When we went around the province during the road show for negotiations, there were a lot of doctors that were disturbed, there was a lot of angst amongst the membership because they know that there are big system issues but the contract, the negotiations, had to be over before we could deal with that."

'Good news for Nova Scotians'

In a news release, Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine said the new contract will help make progress in increasing patient access to collaborative care clinics around the province.

"Doctors play a vital role in our plans to develop a modern, innovative health-care system and we will continue to work and communicate with doctors to improve access to care for Nova Scotians."