The 2 doctors leaving Digby after one year outline why they're going

Before Dr. Jennifer Chang and Dr. Genna Bourget leave Digby, N.S., they say they want to clear up some misconceptions.

Doctors list being away from family, working beyond contracted hours as reasons for leaving

Dr. Genna Bourget and Dr. Jennifer Chang joined the Digby and Area Health Services Centre just a year ago. (Shutterstock)

Before Dr. Jennifer Chang and Dr. Genna Bourget leave Digby, N.S., they say they want to make clear in their own words why they're going.

Both doctors have been working at the Digby and Area Health Services Centre — a clinic that serves between 9,000 and 9,500 clients — for a year. 

"We are sad to leave them," the doctors said in a letter provided to CBC News.​

The news earlier this month that they will depart at the end of November prompted shock and disappointment in the Digby area, which has struggled to retain family doctors and faces a physician shortage.

Some in the community have suggested the doctors are not fulfilling their contracts.

But that's not the case, the doctors said, and there are misconceptions in the community about how they were hired. They want people in the area to know they were never recruited to Digby.

In the letter, the doctors, who declined an interview request, said both of them finished medical school in Dublin and were subsequently required to sign a return-of-service contract to Nova Scotia when they entered residency training through Dalhousie University.

No bonuses or incentives

The doctors said they were given a list of six underserviced towns in the province to choose from and picked Digby because there was an understanding there would be four physicians starting together, which no other community offered.

"Due to unforeseen personal circumstances, only the two of us were able to come and stay," the doctors said. "We were never given any bonuses or incentives to come here.

"Specifically, we were ineligible for any rural incentives from the province or from the municipality."

The doctors said neither had family or a support system in Digby. Bourget's family lives in Hatchet Lake in the Halifax area, while Chang's husband lives between Saint John and Halifax.

In the letter, the doctors said Digby is "a great place to work and live" for health-care providers who could come with their families.

"This is a beautiful community with oceanside living and incredible sunsets. Many of the people we have met are genuinely warm and friendly. The hospital and clinic staff are top-notch and wonderful to work with," the doctors said.

Working overtime all the time

But the doctors said a lot of the work they've done in the area has been above and beyond contracted hours. This included working "many extra nights and weekends without pay" as well as "sacrificed time away from our families."

The doctors said they will be completing the remainder of their term in the Nova Scotia Health Authority's central zone.

"We are not breaking our contracts but instead will continue to address the needs of an under-serviced population there. The areas where we will practice are also in dire need of primary care," the doctors said.

The doctors said they chose to transfer to the central zone to be close to their families and not for any financial reasons, adding their salaries will not increase when they relocate.

The letter ends with the doctors suggesting a key to recruitment and retention of primary care workers "lies in attracting locums and physicians who have roots in Digby or the surrounding communities."

"Support for physicians with spouses or families is equally important as well," they said.

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