Doctors Nova Scotia sues government over contract breaches

Doctors Nova Scotia has filed Notices of Application with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to settle two contract issues with the provincial government. Attempts over the past 14 months to resolve these contract issues outside of the courts have failed. 

“It’s clear to the province’s doctors that government has breached our contract and despite our attempts to resolve the issues outside of the courts, government officials have been unprepared to do so,” said Dr. André Bernard, Doctors Nova Scotia’s Board Chair. “At a time when our province is struggling to recruit physicians and keep the ones we already have, government’s refusal to honour its contractual commitments sends a poor message to doctors. We hope this action demonstrates to physicians already practising in the province – and to those who might consider coming here – that we are committed to standing up for physicians’ interests.”

Under dispute are the government’s use of unapproved contracts for Alternative Payment Plan (APP) physicians and monies owed to Doctors Nova Scotia for the physicians’ health and dental plan and other benefits. 

Doctors Nova Scotia served government with notices of intended action on Oct. 3, 2017, which provided the two months’ notice required before these Notices of Application could be filed with the Court. In that time, government did not take the opportunity to resolve the issues outside of the Court.

Public polling suggests that Nova Scotians strongly support Doctors Nova Scotia’s position. In a telephone poll conducted by Corporate Research Associates in October:

Eighty-three percent of Nova Scotians support Doctors Nova Scotia asking the courts to settle the issue of Government not following previously agreed upon contract terms for Nova Scotia’s doctors.
Eighty-six percent of Nova Scotians support Doctors Nova Scotia asking the courts to settle the issue of government withholding monies owed to Doctors Nova Scotia for physicians’ health benefits. 
According to polling, support for physicians stems from the public feeling the agreements should be honoured and the disputes settled to address the need for more doctors in the province. In the case of physicians’ health benefits, support also stems from perceptions of doctors deserving the benefits and needing to be fairly compensated.  
“It’s not our first choice to proceed this way, but here we are,” said Mrs. MacCready-Williams. “Ultimately, we are working to protect the rights of physicians so that they can focus on what they do best: delivering the best possible care to the people of Nova Scotia,” she added. 

Doctors Nova Scotia aims to resolve these contract issues in order to clear the air with the provincial government so that all parties can move on to solve some of the health-care system’s more significant challenges, as outlined in Doctors Nova Scotia’s recent report “Healing Nova Scotia: Recommendations for a Thriving Physician Workforce.” 

“These contract issues are a distraction from the real work we all need to do to strengthen Nova Scotia’s health-care system,” said Dr. Bernard. “Proceeding with the lawsuit allows us to focus on what’s really important: our patients.”