To the Editor,
There have been concerns raised recently about health care in northern Nova Scotia, in particular, Cumberland County. I want to reassure all Nova Scotians that government, along with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, is working hard to improve access to care and recruit family doctors and specialists, not just in the short term, but for years to come.
Just as the challenges we now face with our health care system did not happen overnight, the solutions will not come overnight either. I understand it is taking time, but there is a lot of good work underway and we are making progress.
- We have hired a second doctor recruiter for Northern Zone to support recruitment efforts, which includes working collaboratively with local community physician recruitment committees, including one in Cumberland County (Cumberland Health Care Task Force), to improve recruitment efforts.
- Six of the 10 new spaces for Dalhousie University’s Family Residency Training Program will be at a new training site in Northern Nova Scotia, with two seats for Amherst which will train and help recruit family doctors to the area.
- We have funded 11 positions - six nurse practitioners and five family practice nurses for the Northern zone (Colchester, Pictou and Cumberland Counties) over the last two years, to strengthen collaborative family practice teams and improve access to care.
- A new program will cover the salaries of up to 10 registered nurses while they return to Dalhousie to complete the two-year Master of Nursing Program to become nurse practitioners. In return, they commit to working in a designated community for five years. Cumberland and Pictou Counties are eligible areas.
- We are changing the way that the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre Medicine Unit is staffed to better to meet the changing needs of patients - we have hired six registered nurses and are recruiting two more.
- We are trying to cover hard-to-fill ER shifts by offering doctors an emergency shift premium. We’re also enhancing our locum program (replacement doctors) to help with short and long-term vacancies at Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.
- A new orthopedic surgeon has been recruited and will start at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow in September.
- 2,295 people in the Northern Zone have been connected with a family doctor since the launch of the 811 Need a Family Practice Registry.
- 549 patients have found family doctors since April 1 of this year, thanks to 59 doctors in the zone taking advantage of government’s new Patient Attachment Incentive Trust.
- 25 new seats are being added at Dalhousie University over the next two years to train more nurse practitioners (NP).
- A new Practice Ready Assessment Program has been created to assess internationally trained family doctors to work in Nova Scotia, with the first group of candidates expected to begin assessments next year.
These initiatives and incentive programs are the result of hard work by the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Department of Health and Wellness, Dalhousie University, Doctors Nova Scotia, and other partners who want to ensure Nova Scotians get the quality care they need, when they need it.
As we continue our work to improve primary care access for all Nova Scotians, I will continue to meet with and listen to health professionals and care providers across our province. I value their input. It will take all of us working together to make a difference.
Minister of Health and Wellness