Nova Scotia

Accuracy check shaves names off doctor wait-list, but more than 85,000 remain

The list of Nova Scotians looking for a primary care provider shrank this month for the first time in nearly two years, despite a record number of people adding their names.

The health authority removed 6,000 names by calling every phone number on the list

More than 85,000 people are looking for a family doctor or nurse practitioner in Nova Scotia. (Cryptographer/Shutterstock)

The list of Nova Scotians looking for a primary care provider shrank this month for the first time in nearly two years, despite a record number of people adding their names.

It may sound like a paradox, but the dip is largely thanks to a validation process the health authority just completed, which found about 6,000 people who no longer needed to be on the wait-list.

Ninety per cent of those people had already found a provider and the rest had either left the province or their circumstances had changed — for instance, they moved into a nursing home.

The accuracy check started last December, and the health authority's latest report does not make clear when names started being removed, but the process helped shrink the size of the wait-list for this month's update.

About 3,500 people found a family practice in February, while nearly 7,500 new people said they were in need of one. That should make for a net increase of 4,000.

And yet the list, as of March 1, was down by about 200 to 85,856.

Most of the people who added their names were in the central health zone, which includes Halifax. The other three health zones saw net decreases.

The accuracy check was done by calling everyone on the list who had provided a phone number. The stated goal, a health authority official said at the time, was to make sure programs could be tailored accurately based on where the need for primary care is greatest.

The wait-list for a doctor or nurse practitioner in Nova Scotia has been a stubborn one to manage for two successive governments.

Started by the previous Liberal government, the list had less than 40,000 people on it when public reporting started in 2017.

It crept up over 50,000 in 2018 and fluctuated around that level until 2020. Since then, the number has been steadily rising, largely due to record in-migration to the province and doctor retirement.

People on the wait-list can access virtual care while they wait for family practice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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