Doctors accept new four-year contracts
Nova Scotia’s doctors have accepted two new four-year agreements with the provincial government.
“A sincere thank you to Minister Thompson and the province for open and collaborative talks at the negotiations table. 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,” said Dr. Colin Audain, President of Doctors Nova Scotia (DNS). “This is essential to our ability to recruit and retain much-needed physicians in Nova Scotia.”
“Physicians play an invaluable role in all aspects of our health-care system,” said Minister Michelle Thompson, Department of Health and Wellness. “One key aspect of the new agreements was including investments in improving access and attachment to primary care, which serves as the foundation for the health-care system.”
Throughout negotiations, the goal has been to stabilize 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.
“Our focus has been building a Physician Agreement that helps to retain our current family physicians and makes longitudinal family medicine practice more attractive to medical learners and physicians,” said Dr. Audain. “The agreement makes significant investments in initiatives that will help stabilize family medicine in Nova Scotia and work to make office-based practice more sustainable for all physicians.”
A new payment model, called the Longitudinal Family Medicine payment model, will support family doctors in providing exemplary patient care across the lifespan and at all levels of complexity.
Family physicians will also receive overhead support, new fee codes that recognize some of the unpaid work family physicians do, and support for family doctors to hire allied health-care providers to enhance team-based care.
Stabilizing specialty services to support patient care in rural communities around the province was also a priority. Rural specialists will receive overhead support, enhanced on-call rates, a commitment to a more stable complement of physician FTE in core services, and an enhanced process for requesting additional physician resources.
All physicians in the province will see a 10% increase in salary spread over the life of the contract (3% in years 1 and 2, 2% in years 3 and 4), retroactive to April 1, 2023. They will also benefit from investments in physician wellness and a more robust locum program, which will provide better opportunities for physicians to have coverage when they are sick or on leave. Many physicians will receive enhanced funding for teaching and training future generations of physicians, and will now be able to plan better for retirement by pairing up with a physician transitioning into practice as they transition out of practice. This ensures patients won’t be left without a doctor to manage their care.
Previous commitments such as funding for electronic medical records and reducing unnecessary physician administrative burden will continue.
“We believe these contracts are good for physicians, good for our patients and good for the health system,” said Dr. Audain.
With more than 148,000 Nova Scotians without access to a family physician, 25% of practising physicians over the age of 60 and long wait times for specialist services, this strong investment in the health system is needed.
The 2019 Master Agreement (now known as the Physician Agreement) and Clinical/Academic Funding Plan C/AFP Agreement began on April 1, 2019, and expired on March 31, 2023. The new agreements are retroactive to April 1, 2023, and end March 31, 2027. They will affect more than 3,300 physicians.