Government Makes Investments in Family Doctors

Government is investing $39.6 million to pay family doctors more and create incentives to get more Nova Scotians off the province’s Need a Family Practice list.

Premier Stephen McNeil made the announcement today, March 19. He was joined by Dr. Tim Holland, president-elect of Doctors Nova Scotia, and Dr. Heather Johnson, a family doctor from Bridgewater.

“We value the dedication of our family doctors to their profession and to their patients,” said Premier McNeil. “We want to thank Doctors Nova Scotia for working with us to develop incentives aimed at supporting our family doctors and attracting new ones, while improving access to care for more Nova Scotians.”

As part of the investments, $13.9 million will go toward increasing compensation for fee-for-service and alternative payment plan family doctors.

Government will increase the basic office visit rate for patients under 65 years of age from $31.72 to $36.00. The basic office visit rate for patients 65 years and over will increase from $40.26 to $44.54. These are the two most commonly billed fees, used by family doctors who see patients from their roster.

Family doctors under alternative payment plan contracts will also receive an increase consistent with the overall increase to fee-for-service rates.

“Doctors Nova Scotia worked with government to provide some immediate short-term solutions to help stabilize the primary care system in Nova Scotia,” said Dr. Manoj Vohra, president, Doctors Nova Scotia. “We believe this is a positive first step toward working together to begin addressing issues in the health-care system – both short and long term.”

In working with Doctors Nova Scotia, government has also developed incentives to support family doctors in using technology and taking on more patients, where they can. These incentives include:
— Patient Attachment Incentive Trust: $6.4 million
A one-time incentive of $150 for each patient a family doctor takes off the provincial list, or who is referred from an emergency department, or without a family doctor due to doctor retirements or relocation
— Technology Incentive: $4.2 million
Participating family doctors can receive up to $12,000 a year for using technology to communicate with their patients and share information by telephone and through e-health services, as part of a pilot project
— Enrolment Incentive Trust: $6.6 million
A one-time enrolment incentive of $7.50 per patient, to encourage family doctors to develop an up-to-date patient list, on a voluntary basis.
— Electronic Medical Record Incentive Trust and Electronic Medical Record support: $8.5 million
Financially support family doctors using electronic medical records by offering a one-time payment for those family doctors changing electronic medical record providers and financial support for electronic medical record users.

“Primary care is foundational to the entire health-care system. Day in and day out, we work hard to keep our patients as healthy as possible,” said Dr. Heather Johnson, a family physician in Bridgewater. “This investment is welcome news for family doctors in Nova Scotia because it will help with physician retention and recruitment.”