NS announced plans for new and expanded health-care clinics

The Nova Scotia government announced plans on Wednesday to expand existing health-care clinics and build new ones between now and 2025.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson told a news conference that the government would spend $17 million on the 60 sites, which are spread around the province. The money would be for operational costs, recruiting and work required to build or expand sites.

Additional costs will come as new staff start working at the clinics. Thompson said the government is committed to making “an ongoing investment in primary health care.”

“We know we need to spend the money,” she told reporters.

“We know that primary care is a priority and we know that it’s going to prevent hospitalization, it’s going to prevent, you know, illnesses from progressing.”

Care no matter where you live

The clinics take a variety of forms, all with the intention of improving attachment to primary-care practices and increasing access for patients who have yet to get a provider.

The announcement includes eight new collaborative family practice teams and new after-hours clinics, primary care clinics and urgent treatment centers. Thompson said the expanded offerings would divert more people from emergency departments as their de facto care option and have a “significant impact” on the size of the need-a-family-practice registry, which hit 145,000 people this month.

“We are working to ensure that no matter where you live, you can get the care you need,” she said.

“We said we would fix health care and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Achieving that goal, however, is going to require more people working in the health-care system.

Officials said Thursday that 53 per cent of the positions across all zones have been filled and most of the remaining positions have been posted and are in different stages of the hiring processes.

Clinics could help recruitment

Officials said Wednesday’s announcement should help recruitment.

Dr. Maria Alexiadis, senior medical director of Nova Scotia Health’s primary health care and chronic disease management network, said new medical graduates train in collaborative settings and want to work that way when they become fully certified.

The collaborative approach is also one doctor from outside of Canada wants, said Alexiadis. During a recent recruitment trip to the United Kingdom, it was “almost expected” that collaborative practices would be available for doctors looking to move to Nova Scotia, she said.

“Some of these doctors, when they come from across the pond, will say ‘I only want to look at those practices that a nurse has attached,'” she told reporters.

“So by pushing forward and creating more of these collaborative teams and these opportunities, we will also be more competitive in recruitment across the country, as well as from across the pond and other places internationally.”

Thompson said collaborative family practice teams would be expanded and established based on the needs of each community. Some places would get doctors, nurse practitioners or family practice nurses, while others might also see a combination of social workers and pharmacists, for example.