Nova Scotia has 118 doctor vacancies, needs 100 a year for next decade: group

A group representing physicians in Nova Scotia says the province is dealing with a doctor shortage that is more acute than it has been in years and will only get worse as the population ages.

Nancy MacCready-Williams of Doctors Nova Scotia says there are 118 doctor vacancies throughout the province and that 1,300 of the 2,400 physicians currently practising are over the age of 50.

MacCready-Williams, speaking today before the legislature's public accounts committee, says the key will be a steady and consistent recruitment of doctors to replace physicians due to retire.

The Physician Resource Plan, developed with Doctors Nova Scotia, says the province needs to recruit 100 doctors a year for the next decade to deal with retirements and an aging population with increasingly complex medical needs.

Dr. Jeanne Ferguson, a geriatric psychiatrist, said the lack of doctors is being sharply felt at hospitals in Cape Breton, which is short vascular and thoracic surgeons, geriatricians, infectious disease specialists and psychiatrists.

She says one emergency room in North Sydney operates only from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. most days, and closes sometimes on weekends when there are no doctors to work the shifts.