Doctors in Nova Scotia have accepted new four-year contracts with the provincial government. 

In a media release Thursday, the province said it had successfully negotiated two new four-year contracts with Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS). The agreements cover physician compensation and benefits in addition to funding for clinical and academic responsibilities.

DNS members announced the ratification of the contracts on Thursday.

“The agreements offer meaningful improvements that will lead to better access to primary and specialty care for Nova Scotians and more satisfying professional and personal lives for some of Nova Scotia’s doctors,” DNS president Dr. Colin Audain said in the release. 

“This is essential to our ability to recruit and retain much-needed physicians in Nova Scotia.” 

‘Stabilizing family medicine’

The new agreements include a new payment model option for family physicians. Compensation will increase based on hours worked, services provided, and the number of patients in their practices. In addition, family physicians compensated through fee for service will be eligible for a grant, and receive an annual payment based on patient numbers.

In its own media release on Thursday, Doctors Nova Scotia said its negotiation goal was stabilizing family medicine. 

“Without good access to primary care, the effects are being felt across the system — most acutely by family physicians themselves, who struggle to see so many in their communities without a family doctor, and by physicians in emergency departments and specialty services, as they work to support patients who don’t have a family physician to quarterback their care,” the release said.

Audain said DNS was focused on building a physician agreement that would help retain current family physicians while making it more attractive to those who might consider family medicine as a career path. 

In addition to a new payment model, family doctors will also receive overhead support and new fee codes that recognize some of their unpaid work.

The agreement also includes funding for family physicians to hire allied health care providers like physiotherapists and dietitians in their offices.

Rural specialists will also receive overhead support and enhanced on-call rates. 

10% salary increase over four years

Under the new agreement, all physicians in the province will see a 10% salary increase spread over the life of the contract. That amounts to 3% in the first and second years and then 2% in the third and fourth years, retroactive to April 1, 2023. 

Investments are also being made in physician wellness and “a more robust locum program.” This is intended to make it easier for physicians who are sick or on leave to have coverage. 

In Nova Scotia, 25% of practicing physicians are over the age of 60. DNS said many physicians will also receive enhanced funding for teaching and training future generations of doctors. The investment is expected to help them better plan for retirement by pairing up with a physician transitioning into practice to take over, ensuring patients aren’t left without a doctor.

“We believe these contracts are good for physicians, good for our patients and good for the health system,” Audain said.

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor who enjoys covering health, science, research, and education.

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