Ten new medical residencies are being created to help deal with the province’s growing shortage of family doctors.
The Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro will become home to a new northern zone training site for six of the residencies, which were announced at the centre Tuesday morning by Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey.
“We know we need to do more and we know there’s different ways and approaches,” Delorey said, during the announcement. “No single solution is going to solve the challenge.”
The new residency spaces, which go into effect in July 2019, will be for two year terms. During that period, the residents will work in family doctor practices with their patients to gain skills and experiences in such areas as maternal care, psychiatry and geriatrics.
The new site and additional spaces are being provided with $3.3 million in provincial funding, when the program is fully subscribed.
Although the residency training program will be based out of the Truro hospital, two of the residents will work with doctors in that area while two will work in Amherst and two in New Glasgow.
“This will spread continually from Amherst to Truro to New Glasgow to Antigonish and the support has already been impressive from everybody in these areas as well,” said Dr. Deanna Field, a family medicine and emergency room doctor based out of the Colchester East Hants Health Centre.
Field, who also participated in the announcement, will serve as the director of the new North Nova Family Medicine Teaching site, as it is to be known.
“After that, every July we’re going to be getting six new residents to rotate through the areas,” she said.
The 10 new spaces are part of Dalhousie University's Family Medicine Residency Training Program. In addition to the six spaces being created in the northern zone, two will be added to an existing site in Cape Breton and one will be added to the site in South West Nova.
A tenth position will be used for family medicine residents to gain additional clinical experience in an area that would enhance services in the community, such as mental health and addictions or oncology.
“One of the strategic goals of our educational programs is to enhance distributed medical education opportunities,” said Dr. David Anderson, dean of Dalhousie’s medical school.
“This move means moving the training of our medical students and residences, outside of urban centres and into community regions like North Nova,” he said.
"Training physicians in these communities will help meet the immediate health-care needs of Nova Scotians, while paving the way to better primary health-care access in the future."
Delorey also referred to research he said has shown that family medicine residency programs have been successful in both recruiting and retaining doctors in the province.
As an example, he referred to the fact that 21 of the 24 residents who completed their training at the Annapolis Valley site since 2012 have chosen to stay and practice in the same or similar communities.
In South West Nova, four of the five residents who completed their training this year will stay in that region.
There are more than 52,000 Nova Scotians who currently are without a family physician. And while this program alone will not solve that entire issue, Delorey said it along with other initiatives such the recently announced $35.6 million in additional funds to change the compensation structure for physicians will help.
“I think it is going to make a significant impact,” he said.
Dr. Karla Armsworthy, who completed her residency training with Dalhousie in 2016, but who did her rotation in the Truro region, continues to practice in Bible Hill.
"Working in a community as a family medicine resident makes it much easier to transition to full medical practice in that community after graduation," she said.
“I did residency rotations in Truro, so I know the specialists in the area and what kinds of services and supports are available for patients. Setting up my practice has been seamless."
Residency training is a collaborative effort between the department of Health and Wellness, Dalhousie Medical School, and Nova Scotia Health Authority.
The new site and additional spaces brings the total number of Dalhousie Family Medicine teaching sites in Nova Scotia to five for the 68 family medicine residents to be trained.