Nova Scotia

Recruitment efforts lure 16 doctors to Cape Breton

The announcement comes after local physicians held rallies during the provincial election campaign in May to raise awareness of a doctor shortage in the region, calling it a crisis situation.

12 specialists and 4 family physicians to set up shop in coming months

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says 16 new doctors have been recruited to Cape Breton. (Goodluz/Shutterstock)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says 16 new doctors are heading to Cape Breton.

The announcement comes after local physicians held rallies during the provincial election campaign in May to raise awareness of a doctor shortage in the region, calling it a crisis situation.

They blamed the amalgamation of the province's health authorities in part for the failed efforts to fill dozens of vacancies.

The new hires include four family physicians and 12 specialists. Five started their new jobs in July, with the remainder beginning within six months.

"I'm starting to feel a little better," said Dr. Rex Dunn, a vascular surgeon in Cape Breton who is also a member of the recruitment committee. 

"We felt that we really were approaching a difficult time — a perfect storm, really."

More vacancies to fill

Last year, the health authority pledged to do exit interviews with physicians leaving their practices, but only three have been completed so far.

While the new hires are seen as a positive step, the region is still short of doctors. There are nine family doctor vacancies and it's anticipated there will be another eight in the future.

Cape Breton also needs a dozen more specialists and the health authority anticipates 14 more positions will soon become vacant.

In a news release, the health authority said it has 10 more site visits planned with potential hires later this summer.

Community effort

The health authority credits the business community and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation with helping the recruitment process.

Stuart MacLeod, who works in the insurance industry, decided he would get involved after a surgeon approached him and asked for ideas.

"We thought it would be good to show young medical students the wonderful things that we have in Cape Breton, but more importantly a testimonial from doctors who are living here and enjoying it here," MacLeod said. 

He approached a number of businesses and raised $12,000 to produce a high-quality video that will soon be completed and shown at medical schools across the country. 

"Not one said, 'No,'" he said. "There's just too many people that don't have a family doctor or need a specialist in our area so we thought that we would do our part to help."

Looking ahead

Along with community assistance, Dunn said the recruitment committee has plans on how to move forward.

They're compiling a list of medical school students who have ties to Nova Scotia or Cape Breton, pointing out they're most likely to stay long term. 

"[We're] starting to get in touch with them early on to keep them reminded that we're up here and have a good spot," said Dunn.

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