Healing Nova Scotia: Recommendations for a Thriving Physician Workforce

Doctors Nova Scotia’s new provincial report charts the path for a thriving physician workforce in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is struggling to recruit and retain physicians, and too many of the province’s practising physicians are suffering from burnout.

Physicians across Nova Scotia have serious concerns about their ability to practise medicine effectively in the current health-care environment. A fragile physician workforce means that more physicians are at risk of burnout and may reduce their work loads, seek opportunities elsewhere or retire early.

To get to the root of the challenges doctors are facing, Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS) recently traveled the province and in just a few short weeks, held 29 meetings in 24 communities, and spoke in person with 235 physicians. (Find your community report here.)

The provincial report, titled “Healing Nova Scotia: Recommendations for a thriving physician workforce,” synopsizes the highest priority issues identified in those conversations and offers recommendations on how to address them. It is the blueprint we can use as we build a better future for health care for all Nova Scotians.

Click here to read the full report.

The issues identified by physicians fall into five overarching themes:

  1. Fragility of the physician workforce
  2. Loss of professional autonomy and satisfaction
  3. Erosion of comprehensive family medicine
  4. Unsustainability of rural specialty services
  5. Lost opportunities to leverage technology

At the root of many of these issues is a lack of trust. The trust that once existed between physicians and key health-system stakeholders has been eroding over time. Rebuilding that trust is essentially if we are to move forward effectively.

The report’s most immediate recommendation is to establish a Health System Physician Coordination Council, which will bring together physicians and key decision-makers from DNS, the Department of Health and Wellness (DHW), the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), the IWK and Dalhousie Medical School. The council will identify and resolve problems, strengthening health care in a coordinated way. Their first task will be to review, and act upon, the recommendations proposed by the province’s physicians.

Physicians also told us they want a say in the decisions that affect their practices. Physicians are experiencing a profound loss of professional satisfaction and autonomy stemming from the loss of local authority and decision-making at the NSHA, a loss of connection within the physician community, and are feeling disconnected and disrespect from the government itself.

Strengthening the physician workforce cannot happen in isolation. Most of these issues facing the physician workforce are broad, complex and systemic; clearly beyond the capacity of any individual health-system stakeholder to resolve independently. It is critical that all stakeholders come together in a meaningful way to make positive changes, for the sake of all Nova Scotians and for the long-term sustainability of our health-care system.

The Executive Committee of the Doctors Nova Scotia Board of Directors presented this report to the Minister of Health, senior government officials from the Department  of Health and Wellness, and key leaders from the NSHA, IWK, Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia at a meeting on Sept. 19 at the association’s offices.

If acted upon, the report’s recommendations will begin to mend the broken relationships among all health-care stakeholders, will ensure Nova Scotia has a thriving physician workforce and optimal health care is available for all.