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Family medicine training program will benefit Cumberland County

When it comes to attracting physicians to underserviced areas of rural Nova Scotia, the provincial government has tried – and often failed – to find the magic bullet that will solve the problems being faced in emergency rooms and regional hospitals from one end of the province to the other.

Now, through a partnership with Dalhousie University, it may have begun to make positive steps toward solving that problem.

A year ago, Health and Wellness and Dalhousie University’s School of Medicine, selected sites for a new family medicine initiative to help provide more Nova Scotians access to a family doctor. Six of those spaces – part of Dalhousie University’s Family Medicine Residency Training Program – were announced for a new training site in northern Nova Scotia including two in Amherst, two in Truro and two in New Glasgow.

In the last two weeks, that commitment began to take shape with the arrival in the three communities of the first six family medicine residents from the Halifax-based medical school. Two of those, including Dr. Aruba Nurullah and Dr. Michael Smith, are working in Amherst with Dr. Janneke Gradstein and Dr. Murray McCrossin.

Under the program, the residents will spend two years in a family practice where they will follow a group of patients, gaining skills and experience in areas such as maternal care, psychiatry and geriatrics. Next year, there’s a strong possibility two more residents could also come to Amehrst.

The hope is the residents will become attached the communities in which they train. And the statistics seem to back that up. Research has shown the family medicine training program has been successful in keeping doctors in Nova Scotia.

For example, 21 of the 24 residents who completed their training at the Annapolis Valley site since 2012 have chosen to stay in that area or other communities in the province.

It’s no secret that health care is in crisis in Cumberland County, just as it is in many rural communities across the province. The emergency departments in Springhill, Parrsboro and Pugwash are closed more often than they’re open and just last year there were concerns about the future of health care at the regional hospital in Upper Nappan.

It was also a year ago the towns of Amherst and Oxford came together with the Municipality of Cumberland and the medical community to create a grassroots community physician recruitment and retention committee that is a short time has already experienced a lot of success with five new physicians and specialists already working in the community and three more expected later.

The arrival of Dr. Nurullah and Dr. Smith as part of the family medicine training program will hopefully be the next step in turning the tide in local health care. Now that they’re here, it’s up to the community to welcome them to the community. Who knows, they may become the newest additions to the roster of family physicians practising in Cumberland County. There’s no doubt they’re needed.

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