N.S. government wasn’t prepared for physician retirements, doctor claims
A family doctor says the Nova Scotia government has known about the “retirement boom” for years, but didn’t do enough to prepare for it.
Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan says she attended a meeting in 2015 where she was told Nova Scotia has too many physicians per capita.
“It sounded to us that therefore they felt justified in restricting whether they were going to replace doctors that were going to retire and whether they were going to let new doctors set up in places where they wanted to,” Dr. Jayabarathan says.
Dr. Jayabarathan says she’s disappointed and frustrated with the actions of the health authority and department. She believes there’s no way officials didn’t know a wave of doctors would soon be retiring.
“How could you say that you didn't know? Either you didn't know or is that the level of competency that you have?” Dr. Jayabarathan asks.
In Dartmouth, 40 per cent of doctors are expected to retire over the next five years. According to Doctors Nova Scotia, 697 doctors in Nova Scotia – both family and specialists – are between 50 and 59, 487 are between 60 and 69, and 146 are over the age of 70. In total, 1,330 of the provinces doctors are over the age of 50. That’s about half.
Dr. Richard Gibson of the Nova Scotia Health Authority acknowledged in an interview with CTV News Wednesday night that there are more retirements this year than in the past.
“I think what we're seeing at the present time is a bit, you know, one of the peak years, in which we've got a number of people who are retiring,” says Dr. Gibson.
When asked if he still thinks Premier Stephen McNeil’s 2013 promise to find every Nova Scotian a family doctor is possible, Dr. Gibson said it is.
“The reason there's 60 vacancies right now does have a lot to do with the demographics of the family physician population and the retirements and so forth, but I think we could find a family doctor for every patient,” he said.
But Dr. Jayabarathan says Nova Scotia is not a happy place to practice.
“For 10 years this province had one of the most celebrated relationships between government and doctors and we watched it literally being imploded right in front of us,” says Dr. Jayabarathan.
She says the tables could turn, but officials just have to listen.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.