Nova Scotia

Health minister says group reviewing anesthesia services doesn't have veto power

Health Minister Randy Delorey says recommendations on whether the province should use family practice anaesthetists may be delayed, but the decision will ultimately fall to him.

Randy Delorey has waited months for recommendations from perioperative group

Health Minister Randy Delorey is still waiting on a report about anaesthesia services for the province. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey says recommendations on whether the province should use family practice anaesthetists may be delayed, but the decision will ultimately fall to him.

Delorey was responding after CBC reported the province missed out on offers of two training seats from Ontario medical schools because the Nova Scotia Health Authority's perioperative group could not agree on whether the role should used in the province.

A family practice anaesthetist, or FPA, is a family doctor with an additional year of training in anesthesiology. They are not replacements for board-certified anesthesiologists, but can do general and local anesthetics in everything but highly-specialized work, such as brain and heart surgery, and are used widely in Ontario and Western Canada.

Although there has been resistance to the idea from some people in the medical community, Delorey said he's seen no evidence to suggest it's being held up by doctors who aren't interested in sharing the work.

Not ceding the decision

Delorey said he's asked for the perioperative group's input because it's important to hear from them, but the group doesn't have a veto.

"I have never ceded that the review reflects the decision," Delorey told reporters following a cabinet meeting in Halifax.

"What I've asked for was advice and recommendations. What I need to do is look at that advice and the evidence they've used to come up with a decision and that will help inform [the outcome]."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority deferred a request for an interview with the head of anesthesia until the perioperative group makes a presentation to medical leadership on Sept. 24. 

The minister said the situation should not be viewed as a missed opportunity because if doctors were trained to be FPAs and then the role wasn't introduced in Nova Scotia, they could be recruited away by other jurisdictions.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill disagreed with that assessment.

"When there's any opportunity for us to expand the base of family physicians, specialists of various sorts, how would we possibly think it's a good idea to miss it?"

Premier wants less red tape

Premier Stephen McNeil noted the FPA role has been used in Nova Scotia in the past and it remains an accepted practice in much of the country.

The premier has been vocal about the need for consistency in services not just in the province, but across the country. He supports a single licensing board for doctors in Canada, something he's pursuing with the Atlantic premiers in hopes of it spreading to the rest of the country.

"It makes no sense that someone living in Moncton can practise in Moncton but can't come to Amherst or vice versa," he told reporters in Halifax.

McNeil said the red tape doctors face, particularly those wishing to do locums in other provinces, is "nonsensical and bureaucratic and needs to be dealt with."

Governments and provincial regulators need to modernize their approach and McNeil said his attention would shift to that after a new master agreement is reached with Doctors Nova Scotia.

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

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