Liberals owe Cape Bretoners an apology for doctor recruitment foul up

April 23, 2019 at 9:38 am

Chaos at the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) has destroyed an opportunity to bring young family doctors to Cape Breton.

The weekend of April 27, second- and third-year Dalhousie medical students, who have expressed an interest in family medicine, were supposed to visit Sydney. Planning for the important recruiting opportunity began in October. Unfortunately, the planning request sat on a desk at the health authority collecting dust until two weeks ago. Because of NSHA indifference to their request, the family medicine student group cancelled the trip to Cape Breton.

“If this government was serious about bringing family doctors to Cape Breton, they wouldn’t squander opportunities like this,” Northside-Westmount MLA Eddie Orrell said. “This is not just an administrative oversight. It’s proof that the Liberals are unwilling or unable to tackle our growing health crisis.”

In a recent ‘Recruitment Update’ email to physicians, Dr. Nicole Boutilier, Interim Co-Vice President of Medicine and Integrated Health Services, called NSHA bungling of the Sydney recruitment opportunity “not an ideal position” and apologized.

“People in Cape Breton expect their government to take each and every opportunity to recruit doctors to the area and ease the suffering and worry that goes along with not having a family doctor,” Victoria-The Lakes MLA Keith Bain said. “The Minister of Health should issue an apology to Cape Bretoners and promise this kind of incompetence will not happen again.”

The doctor shortage in Cape Breton has reached a crisis level. Last week, the Liberals announced that the Glace Bay Emergency Department will be closed for six weeks due to insufficient staff.

“It is unbelievable that this government isn’t making doctor recruitment a priority,” Sydney River-Myra-Louisbourg MLA Alfie MacLeod said. “With orphaned patients and constantly closing Emergency Rooms, access to primary health care in Cape Breton is harder and harder to get. It’s unacceptable and it is frightening to think about what might happen.”

In April 2018, Nova Scotia was the only province not to attend a rural physician recruitment fair in Newfoundland. At the time, Premier Stephen McNeil called the oversight “completely unacceptable.” At the time, the Premier wanted an explanation from the health authority as to why Nova Scotia opted out of an important recruitment opportunity.

“Nova Scotians deserve an explanation from this government for ignoring another opportunity to connect Nova Scotians with family doctors,” PC leader Tim Houston said. “This is just not good enough. People expect their government to oversee the health authority and ensure every chance to bring doctors to our province is being taken.”