Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia ending bonus for doctors who take patients off wait list

Nova Scotia is scrapping a program that gave family doctors a bonus for taking patients off the provincial wait list. The program, which offered $150 per patient removed from the list, will end on March 1, two years after being implemented.

Program offered $150 to doctors for every patient taken off the list

Nova Scotia's Health Department says more than 54,000 people found doctors through a program that offered bonuses to doctors for taking patients off the provincial wait list. (Shutterstock)

Nova Scotia is scrapping a program that gave family doctors a bonus for taking patients off the provincial wait list.

The program, which offered $150 per patient removed from the list, will end on March 1, two years after being implemented.

Health Minister Randy Delorey said it was never meant to be a long-term solution. He said it was a bridge until a new contract agreement was reached with physicians.

"I think that addresses many of the recruitment retention challenges that are fiscal in nature," Delorey said of the new contract.

Under the new agreement, family doctors in Nova Scotia will go from the lowest paid in the country to the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, according to the Health Department.

Tory health critic wants Liberals to continue program

It said more than 54,000 people found doctors through the program, which was initially supposed to cost $6.4 million. To date, the province has spent $8.5 million.

The president of Doctors Nova Scotia said they understand why the province is ending the program.

"They said to us some time ago that there's a finite amount of money in the pot," said Dr. Gary Ernest.

However, the timing came as a surprise. He said the organization scrambled to renegotiate a new end date, as many doctors made appointments with their new patients in the new year.

"It certainly caused some discussions about the fairness of it all," said Ernest. "Thankfully, we were successful in getting it pushed off another couple of months."

Dr. Gary Ernest, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, says eliminating the program won't make or break a doctor's decision to work in the province. (CBC)

PC health critic Karla MacFarlane said the program was a success and that's more reason to keep funding it.

"I was really surprised to receive this information," she said. "It has proven it has worked, that's a wonderful thing. I congratulate the Liberals on that initiative. I want them to continue it."

Almost 47,000 Nova Scotians on wait list

This month, the provincial wait list dropped by 3.7 per cent, but 46,991 Nova Scotians who have registered are still actively looking for a primary-care provider.

MacFarlane points out there's thousands more who aren't registered, including her own family.

"We need to continue to ensure that we're putting incentives in place, until every Nova Scotian has a doctor," she said.

At the end of the day, Ernest said the loss of the program won't make or break a doctor's decision to work in the province.

"The majority of doctors have practices that are full or beyond full," he said. "For the average doctor in the province, he or she is not going to be able to take many new patients."

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Carolyn Ray

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Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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