Wait list for family doctors grows in Nova Scotia

The list of Nova Scotians without a family doctor has now reached more than 50,000 and the Nova Scotia Healthy Authority acknowledges it is likely much more than that.

They say collaborative family practice teams will help and are trying to sell those to communities across the region.

Ashley Ryer of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) went to Truro on Wednesday to explain to a roomful of people the state of health care in the area.

“We have 2,034 who have told us in the area they do not have a family doctor,” she said. “We know that those numbers are not correct.”

The purpose of the meeting was to explain how collaborative family practice teams could help reduce the number of people going without a family doctor. Ryer says she knows there are many more who have not let the health authority know they're in need of a family doctor.

“It's self-reported, so the information that we have is only as good as those that have registered with 811,” she said.

There are more making their way onto the province’s list with 4,744 people added in the month of May.

That brought the total to 50,024 people or 5.4 per cent of the population.

Dr. Manoj Vohra is a family doctor and the president of Doctors Nova Scotia.

“I don't want to put alarms out, but we've been in a crisis for the last few years,” he said.

Dr. Vohra works in the Truro area and says there are still a number of problems contributing to the longer list such as retirements, financial compensation, and burnout among doctors.

“People will come in and ask you - could you take on x - could you take on my mother, she's just lost my family doctor? Could you take on my sister she's really sick. And most physicians have a hard time to say no,” Vohra said.

There are more than 80 vacancies listed on the Nova Scotia Health Authority website.

As a possible solution, the health authority is urging the implementation of collaborative practices, which will help with recruitment and shortening the wait list.

"It’s an approach to delivery care,” said Duane MacInnis. the director of primary health care for the NSHA’s northern zone. “It's delivering holistic care to patients and clients in communities."

The NSHA has planned 26 different sessions in communities across the province to promote the idea of collaborative family practice teams. The next one is planned for Shelburne next week.

(With files from Laura Brown)