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Survey shows most doctors leaving N.S. are taking jobs elsewhere

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The Nova Scotia Liberal Party released numbers from a Freedom of Information request from a 'physician exit survey' from May 2021 to December 2023, which shows the majority of doctors who responded left to pursue job opportunities elsewhere.

Over the 32-month timeframe, 73 respondents answered the questionnaire, and nearly 60 per cent of them said they left to pursue other job opportunities, while 27 per cent retired and 14 per cent provided no reason for leaving.

Nearly half of the respondents said they left the province because of dissatisfaction with their position.

Nova Scotia Liberal leader Zach Churchill says he's been hearing from doctors they don't feel they “have a say” in the delivery of health care and he wants to see a health-care professional put back into the leadership role at Nova Scotia Health.

One of the first moves the Tim Houston government made when elected in 2021 was to fire doctor Brendan Carr as CEO of Nova Scotia Health and dismiss the entire board of directors.

"Tim Houston fired a board of professionals and health-care management professionals out of the health-care system and put in a conservative lawyer with no health-care experience," said Churchill. "I’m hearing that that has created a situation, a culture in health-care management that’s more focussed on the politics of health care, the PR in health care, over what patients and people need in the health-care system."

Minister of Health and Wellness Michelle Thompson said the government is making strides in attracting new doctors and keeping those working here and has full confidence in the health team.

Thompson says the Liberals are playing politics and trying to skew the numbers in the exit survey, which doesn't tell the whole story.

"It takes a whole group of individuals with multiple skillsets to lead an organization such as Nova Scotia Health and the IWK," said Thompson. "Expertise permeates our system and we have the finest health-care clinicians, I believe, in the world."

Doctors Nova Scotia emphasized how critical physician recruitment and retention is to stabilizing health services for Nova Scotians, particularly in primary care. They say the government is making improvements and credits the new four-year physician contract signed last year.

"The exit survey data is very helpful in terms of knowing why physicians may be leaving the province," said Dr. Colin Audain, a physician and president of Doctors Nova Scotia. "While we can't influence physicians leaving our province for another opportunity that brings them closer to their family or their spouse (to) employment opportunities, we are working in other ways to improve the working environment for physicians."

Nova Scotia Health says participation in the physician exit survey is completely voluntary and says it's likely to expect feedback from those who are leaving with concerns, versus those who are leaving on good terms.

Nova Scotia Health confirmed of the 73 responses received during that period, 219 physicians left their positions.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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