Why aren't new family doctors getting trained where wait lists are longer?
There are questions tonight surrounding the chosen locations for ten new family medicine residency spots in Nova Scotia.
They're located in northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, but there's concern about what's being done to address the need in metro Halifax -- especially with a wave of physician retirements on the horizon.
You don't have to hang out on Halifax's Spring Garden Road for long - before you hear statements like this.
“My doctor just retired last year,” or “I'm worried he's going to retire,” and “Her last day will be Aug. 24 and we are really worried.”
It’s certainly not a new problem says Dr. Richard Gibson, the medical director of Primary Health Care in the Department of Family Practice at Dalhousie University.
“It's on our radar and it also highlights why we need a provincial approach to recruiting,” he said.
40 per cent of family doctors in Dartmouth are set to retire over the next five years and recent figures from the Nova Scotia Health Authority show more than half of people on the wait list are in the central zone -- Halifax Regional Municipality, Eastern Shore and West Hants areas.
The province announced that almost all of the 10 new family medicine residency placements will be in the north.
And the minister says there's a reason for that.
“This particular site here in Truro, is a new site for family residency program,” said Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey.
“The northern zone didn't have this service previously, so we're ensuring that this zone, so that each of the zones now have, at least six of those are committed to the northern zone which didn't have one previously.”
The Halifax area has the most family residency spots already with 17.
“This is a very large piece of this puzzle,” said Doctors Nova Scotia President Dr. Tim Holland.“This is a very important day for the future of family medicine in Nova Scotia.”
Important, because where a new doctor trains is often where they stay, which is why there’s an emphasis on the location of these spaces.
“I asked for a family doctor and they gave me like a three-year waiting list or something like that,” said Nicole O’Connor.
“I mean I’m fortunate enough that I don’t need to go to the doctor on a regular basis, but even something like a minor prescription, you have to go to a clinic.”
Cheryl Chisholm has a family doctor, but faces other pressures.
“She's so backed up with all of her appointments and everything that it’s lasting like two or three months before you can go in and see her,” said Chisholm.
While adding more residency placements for medical students seems simple, there has to be funding -- and the training capacity -- to create the placements.
Right now, the Halifax region is maxed out at 17.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.