Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson says her department is reviewing the letter received Thursday from federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos about the status of private health clinics.

Duclos is worried about the creeping privatization of health care by companies that employ doctors and nurses to provide the same “medically necessary” services a patient would get for free with their health card. In a private setting, a patient may be seen more quickly if they can pay with a credit card. Duclos has told provinces if they don’t close these for-profit health care providers, they will lose some of their federal health care money.

An online virtual care company called Algo-Med opened and closed its Burnside office last year. Late last month, a new clinic called Bluenose Health, which is staffed by two nurse practitioners, opened in the Hydrostone area of Halifax. According to its website, patients can make an appointment if they pay a $30-per-month subscription fee. But as of March 1, it appears this clinic is no longer taking additional patients.

Thompson said she is not sure if Duclos’ letter means she will have to order Bluenose Health ⁠— and possibly other private-pay clinics ⁠— to close, so Nova Scotia doesn’t forfeit health care dollars from Ottawa. What Thompson said she is sure about is that there is a better way to deal with the growing privatization of health care.

“We will interpret this letter in terms of our own landscape in Nova Scotia and what we need to do,” Thompson said in an interview with the Examiner. “But that’s not the root of the problem. We both have the same goal — a publicly funded system — but I’m asking and I’m sure my counterparts will be asking as well, that the federal legislation be updated in order to enable us to do this consistently. And give us the legislative tools we may require.”

Updating the Canada Health Act

Thompson said the federal government needs to update the 38-year-old Canada Health Act to reflect the way in which health care has changed. Citizens no longer depend exclusively on hospitals and family doctors, but on a whole range of health care professionals dispensing medical advice over the internet and over the phone and from mobile clinics and pharmacies. Instead of “downloading” on each province to close down health care providers offering faster access to those who can pull out a credit card, Thompson said Ottawa should work with the provincial health ministers to modernize the Canada Health Act to include new types of service and clearly state what will not be covered by Medicare.

Thompson couldn’t provide a specific example on Friday, but said we will be hearing more from her on this issue soon. Next week is also when Thompson said Nova Scotians can expect to see a rise in the number of Nova Scotians on the Need a Family Practice Registry. Despite the growing number of Nova Scotians without a family doctor or nurse practitioner — more than 133,000 a month ago and that number continues to grow — Thompson hinted some “good news” is coming that will improve access to routine medical care .

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Good morning Jennifer
    In your article you have said as of March 1st Bluenose Health does not appear to be taking on new patients.That statement is not correct, Bluenose Health continues to enroll Clients on an ongoing basis in order to access timely Personal Primary Care taylored to their individual needs. Thankyou for covering this important Health Care Crisis here in Nova Scotia where the Doctor wait list continues to grow to over 139,000 not including the recent closure of Spryfield Family Clinic having over 4,000 patients along with the 4100 patients when the South End clinic closes in August in addition to the over 2000 + patients that will be without a GP when the Monaghan Clinic on Young St closes this May adding an additional 10,000 more to the exhisting list of 139,000.This will only add more to the frustration and fear to all Nova Scotians.A growing ageing population continues to be of major concern along with an aging population of overworked Physicians

  2. It is not enough that it be “publicly funded”. It must be provided by way of accountable and democratic public institutions or non-profits (e.g. co-ops). Public funds going to profiteers is not a sustainable healthcare system.

    1. Mr Stockton
      I read your comments with great interest and can assure you that Bluenose Health will continue supplying our Clients with timely access to the much needed care that all Nova Scotians need and require.Public funds have not been used to set up our modern up to date Medical Practice and that our Provincially licensed Nurse Practitioners are working to their full scope of practice as per the Requirements of Nova Scotia College of Nurses .We do not consider ourselves as Profiteers as you as a Lawyer charging clients a fair fee for your services rendered would not consider your self a profiteer dealing with your clients needs