HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia doctors say they badly need a raise, arguing low pay and poor working conditions are exacerbating an already-severe doctor shortage.

Three doctors' organizations called on the province Wednesday to act immediately to "stabilize the physician workforce."

They said Nova Scotia physicians are among the lowest paid in the country, while they should be at least "middle of (the) pack."

The organizations include Doctors Nova Scotia, Maritime Resident Doctors and the Dalhousie Medical Students' Society.

They argue doctors face a challenging work environment, heavy workload and an excessive administrative burden, and that physician audits are "contributing to low morale and a national reputation as an unattractive province to practise medicine."

They say new family practitioners educated at Dalhousie are increasingly choosing not to practice in Nova Scotia -- among the fewest ever this year chose to stay here.

"This is a wake-up call to our province that our own medical students aren't choosing to practice family medicine in Nova Scotia," Dr. Caitlin Lees, president of Maritime Resident Doctors, said in a statement.

The three organizations also recommend new payment models for family medicine, improved physician engagement and investment in succession planning.

"It is almost impossible to recruit physicians to a work environment that promises excessive hours, inadequate pay, insufficient supports and an inability to meet patient needs within reasonable time frames," Dr. Tim Holland, president of Doctors Nova Scotia, said in a statement.

"With more than half of our practising physicians over the age of 50, with increasing numbers of people without a family doctor and with many specialty services hanging on by a thread, it's clear that immediate action is needed to ensure Nova Scotians have access to the care they need."

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority 56,630 people who have registered with the province were still waiting for a family doctor as of Sept. 1, although federal statistics place that number at closer to 100,000 - including people who simply aren't looking for a doctor.

Premier Stephen McNeil said this month the province has recruited new family doctors, created new residency positions and taken other measures to provide Nova Scotians with primary health care.