The announcement this week that Cumberland County's only after hours medical clinic was closing its doors due to a shortage of physicians is an indicator of the sad reality facing Nova Scotians, at least in this part of the province. There just are not enough doctors to serve our health care needs - needs that are escalating as the population continues to age.
Amherst has lost three physicians in the past three years, and those remaining have been stretching themselves to keep the ER open, maintain their own practices and shoulder other responsibilities. Meanwhile, communities like Springhill and Parrsboro continue to face doctor shortages as well.
According to Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who recently sold the Amherst Family Health Clinic, which housed the after-hours clinic, 25 per cent of after hours users in October did not have a family doctor, compared to four per cent several years ago. Fifty thousand Nova Scotians do not have a family doctor today, and 25 per cent of Nova Scotia's physicians plan to retire within the next five years.
With the NDP government seemingly backing off its campaign pledge to keep all ER's in Nova Scotia, one might doubt that they are ready to make sure all Nova Scotians have a family doctor. A Liberal plan to cover the tuition costs of a limited number of medical students committed to practicing in under-serviced parts of the province would be a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the loss of the after hours clinic will result in even further pressure on the ER at Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, meaning longer lineups for patients and increased workloads for the doctors staffing it.
We need to hear the government's plan on this issue. To say they are searching for more doctors is no longer good enough.