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Nova Scotia scraps new patient incentive for doctors
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia is abandoning a program that paid doctors a cash incentive to take on new patients.
The idea was to help people get a family doctor and some worry about what this will do to the already-long waiting list.
It's called the 'unattached patient bonus' and it gave $150 for every new patient a doctor took on – but it ends this week.
Critics worry this could make doctors less likely to add to their patient load.
"Doctors didn't find out until the last minute, it wasn't brought up in negotiations," said Progressive Conservative health critic Karla McFarlane, who was critical of the Liberals' "lack of transparency."
Doctors got notice that the bonus would run out in December and fought to extend it to this month, but still, they say the bonus was never enough money to make a major impact.
"One hundred and fifty dollars is not going to be what makes a family doctor who has a full practice take on another or some other number of patients," Dr. Gary Ernest of Doctors Nova Scotia said from Liverpool. "Because it’s a large commitment to take on a patient with care that’s going to be lasting until the end of the doctor's career."
The bonus was introduced in 2018, when Nova Scotia's doctors were about to negotiate a new contract with the province.
"That program was a measure to help address the short term," said Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey. "At that time in 2018, we carried it through, and now it's just naturally winding up as it was originally intended to."
Delorey says doctors' new contracts have better compensation overall.
As for physicians, they say one of the best ways to get people off the wait lists would be to embrace new technology.
"We’re looking at different e-health strategies, virtual care, so that people can have care provided to them in their homes," Ernest said. "They don’t have to come in and see doctors and our reach can go out further and we can see more patients per physician."
That's something Doctors Nova Scotia hopes the province will consider.