Physician retirements continue to impact N.S. doctor shortage
The Nova Scotia government has managed to recruit a number of new family doctors to work in the province, but physicians say it’s still not enough to cover enough replacements for those hoping to retire.
In early December, CTV News reported that Nova Scotia had recruited 26 family doctors since April 1. That number has since gone up.
Between April 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, they've recruited 35 specialists, adding nine more in the last two months. They’ve recruited 66 specialists in the same timeframe, for a total of 101 recruited physicians in nine months.
Though these figures are tallied, the number of doctors retiring in the province is not. With the majority of Nova Scotia’s doctors over the age of 50, recruitment efforts remain slow.
“When we have 150 doctors or more that are 65 plus, they deserve to retire like anyone else,” says Nova Scotia PC MLA Chris D’Entremont. “We know today the way doctors practice that we probably need double that amount, so we need 300 doctors just to keep up with our retirements of 65 plus.”
At the Springview Family Practice Women’s Wellness Clinic, the two family doctors retired in September. A part-time locum doctor is trying to fill the gap until a new physician can be found.
Kevin Chapman of Doctors Nova Scotia says a part-time locum is great for the patients they can manage to see.
“It does allow those patients to have some continuity, but for all the rest of the patients in the practice – and they did have big practices – they're left without a family physician,” says Chapman. “It is just a microcosm of the time we're in.”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia have guidelines for retiring doctors. It says they "should" notify patients of their intention to retire through the mail, a newspaper ad or direct conversation. But a spokesperson for the college says sometimes they're not aware of retirements.
“The college asks physicians to notify the college when they are retiring.,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Our intention here is to ensure physicians are aware of their obligations at such times, to answer any questions they may have and to update our member database. If a physician does not contact the college we may or may not become aware of their retirement.”
As of Jan. 1 there are 41,877 people on the official waitlist for a family doctor. That's just about 300 fewer than in December.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.