Cape Breton doctor skeptical about province's recruitment message
Nova Scotia is looking to Europe to help solve its doctor shortage.
Recruiters are just back from Ireland and the U.K. where they spoke with dozens of doctors about making the move.
But, with so many people without a family doctor, this is only one part of the solution.
Since a new immigration stream was launched in February, 16 doctors have decided to move here, seven of whom are now working in the province.
“It is working,” said Kim Jardine of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration. “We've met with physicians over the past year; we're now seeing those physicians coming through our immigration stream and moving to Nova Scotia and practicing here".
The health authority is targeting the U.K. and Ireland. Despite doctors in Nova Scotia having the lowest wages in the country, the health authority says pay isn't a sticking point.
“Surprisingly, with our international folks, that rarely comes up as an issue for recruitment,” said Katie Meisner of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Instead, they say recruits are looking for a better work-life balance.
“You know, they don't have that right now in their current situation and it's top priority for them,” Meisner said. “So they want to come to a place where they can practice good medicine.”
Dr. Margaret Fraser works in Cape Breton and has her doubts about message recruiters are sending.
“They’re selling this as a lifestyle issue, that it’s more laid-back here,” Fraser said. “From my perspective, this is not a laid-back place to work. This is a very stressful work environment, it's a very difficult environment to work in and the work loads are in many cases untenable.”
Recently, a well-known psychiatrist from Cape Breton announced his resignation.
Fraser says doctors in the area are over-worked compared to the rest of the province.
“We're significantly understaffed in family medicine here,” Fraser said. “Psychology is grossly understaffed. Even at our historic compliment of 16 people for a population of 140,000, by comparison there are 122 psychologists working in the Halifax for a population of roughly 500,000.”
Fraser says the lack of psychiatrists and emergency-room closures make it difficult to access services.
“The reality is, if you're looking for help here, you're going to wait,” Fraser said. “We're severely over-stretched and severely under-resourced.”
According to the physician resource plan, the province needs to get 1,000 doctors over a 10-year period.
Officials say any doctors that they recruit will be paid equally to doctors currently practicing in Nova Scotia.
Right now there are more than 58,000 people on a waiting list for a family practitioner.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Natasha Pace.