TRURO – The Amherst area will benefit from the location of a northern zone training site for medical residencies.
Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey said two of the preceptors will be located in the Amherst area, meaning two of the doctors trained in Truro will do their residencies out of Cumberland County.
“Six for the 10 placements will be on the north shore. Two of them in the first year will be in the Amherst area, two will be in New Glasgow and two will be in Truro,” Delorey told the Amherst News. “The Amherst area will be getting two residents who will work with their physician supervisors, or preceptors. They will mentor the residents that are training.”
The minister, who announced earlier this week the creation of 10 new medical residencies to help deal with the province’s growing family doctor shortage, said the two residencies will be based in the community and work with family physicians.
Delorey said he’s hopeful the medical residents will remain in the communities they do their training upon graduation.
“Research has shown that where a resident trains, they are more likely to stay,” he said. “We have a program in Yarmouth that provides residents in communities southwest Nova Scotia. Four of the five who completed their residency training have stayed in the region. It doesn’t guarantee they will stay but it certainly increases the likelihood of a physician staying in that community.”
The goal, he said, is to train more physicians and to take some of the strain off of medical students by letting them know they have more opportunity to practice medicine in Nova Scotia. He added the two years they are training in the community they will be providing health care services under the supervision of a doctor.
The Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro will become home to a new northern zone training site for six of the residencies.
“We know we need to do more (family doctors) and we know there’s different ways and approaches,” Delorey said, during the announcement. “No single solution is going to solve the challenge.”
The new residency spaces, which go into effect in July 2019, will be for two-year terms. During that period, the residents will work in family doctor practices with their patients to gain skills and experiences in such areas as maternal care, psychiatry and geriatrics.
The new site and additional spaces are being provided with $3.3 million in provincial funding, when the program is fully subscribed.
Although the residency training program will be based out of the Truro hospital, two of the residents will work with doctors in that area while two will work in Amherst and two in New Glasgow.
“This will spread continually from Amherst to Truro to New Glasgow to Antigonish and the support has already been impressive from everybody in these areas as well,” said Dr. Deanna Field, a family medicine and emergency room doctor based out of the Colchester East Hants Health Centre.
Field, who also participated in the announcement, will serve as the director of the new North Nova Family Medicine Teaching site, as it is to be known.
“After that, every July we’re going to be getting six new residents to rotate through the areas,” she said.
The 10 new spaces are part of Dalhousie University's Family Medicine Residency Training Program. In addition to the six spaces being created in the northern zone, two will be added to an existing site in Cape Breton and one will be added to the site in South West Nova.
A tenth position will be used for family medicine residents to gain additional clinical experience in an area that would enhance services in the community, such as mental health and addictions or oncology.
“One of the strategic goals of our educational programs is to enhance distributed medical education opportunities,” said Dr. David Anderson, dean of Dalhousie’s medical school.
“This move means moving the training of our medical students and residences, outside of urban centres and into community regions like North Nova,” he said.
"Training physicians in these communities will help meet the immediate health-care needs of Nova Scotians, while paving the way to better primary health-care access in the future."
There are more than 52,000 Nova Scotians who currently are without a family physician. And while this program alone will not solve that entire issue, Delorey said it along with other initiatives such the recently announced $35.6 million in additional funds to change the compensation structure for physicians will help.
“I think it is going to make a significant impact,” he said.
Residency training is a collaborative effort between the department of Health and Wellness, Dalhousie Medical School, and Nova Scotia Health Authority.
The new site and additional spaces brings the total number of Dalhousie Family Medicine teaching sites in Nova Scotia to five for the 68 family medicine residents to be trained.
(With files from Harry Sullivan, SaltWire Network)