It was announced Mar. 23 at the Digby and Area Health Services Centre that the county will get three new doctors and one new family care nurse at the Digby health clinic.
The announcement also sought to assure residents that these new health professionals will provide satellite services to communities including Weymouth, Bear River, Barton and Digby Neck.
Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, Municipal Warden Jimmy McAlpine and Digby Mayor Ben Cleveland were on hand for the announcement along with Dr. Crystal Todd, head of family practice for the Nova Scotia Health Authority western zone.
The new family practice nurse will begin this spring, while the new doctors will begin in September.
Wilson said these four new health care professionals will ensure "everyone looking for access to a family practice in Digby County will have it," which is a figure of approximately 10,000 people.
No doctor in Weymouth
Residents of Weymouth, who’ve been vocal about their lack of access to health services, voiced their concerns at the meeting, saying they’re sceptical these changes will have any effect on their community, which has been without a family doctor since Nov. 2015.
“We hear your concerns…and understand your scepticism,” said Todd.
These new doctors and nurse will decide how frequently they’ll visit these communities. There is no minimum number of visits required, which several residents identified as a concern.
Todd said this is due to avoiding “micromanagement” of the new health professionals, and feels they should be “given some credit.”
A list of deliverables – with a clause specifying travel to satellite clinics in outlying areas – was included within the contract signed by the new doctors and nurse.
“They’ve read it, they’ve signed it, they know what it means,” said Todd.
She will hold regular meetings with health care stakeholders to monitor the progress of these new doctors and nurse and the services they provide.
Next step: retention
Each speaker emphasized the importance of retention. Getting doctors to remain in Digby has been an ongoing issue at the clinic, which first opened in 2013.
Mayor Ben Cleveland said this has been the most frustrating issue during his tenure. A committee called Medical Emergency in Digby County was formed in 1983 to address the issue, which Cleveland said is still unresolved.
Doctors leave for a variety of reasons, but Cleveland said the community must welcome the doctors and encourage them to stay.
“It’s counterproductive, and makes me upset, when I see the community continually attacking the work going on to resolve this issue,” he said.
“We need the community to make it so that they can’t and don’t want to leave.”
Wilson also expressed hope the community would see the announcement as positive, though he acknowledged the conversation is not over.
“There’s still obviously much work to be done, but we made it clear today that Bear River and Weymouth play a key part in delivering health care,” he said.