NEW MINAS, N.S. – Three doctors behind the construction of a new health centre in New Minas say they are optimistic the project will help with the recruitment of new doctors.
Kentville psychiatrist Dr. Mark Johnston and family doctors Dr. Craig White and Dr. Chris King are the team at the helm of the project to be built along Commercial Street, at the former location of Fairlanes Bowling Centre.
They expect to break ground within the next few months, and are hoping the centre acts as a breakthrough for doctor recruitment. White and King have recruited a family doctor from Ontario to set up her practice once the building opens – a move they hope others decide to follow.
“We’re hoping this acts as a magnet for current and new doctors. We want it to be a hub in New Minas so people coming to the area won’t be thinking, ‘where will I get a family doc,’ because a bunch will be right here,” says Johnston.
The multidisciplinary centre will house services including a pharmacy, physio therapy, a respiratory component, psychology clinic and collaborative care family medicine teams – including 10 confirmed family doctors – along with family medicine medical students and research facilities, all housed within its 33,000 square feet over two stories.
It’s a long list that needs a lot of space, but Johnston hopes to set aside some five to eight per cent of the building for new family doctors interested in setting up shop.
“You have to take risks in these situations, but the rewards can be big, not just as a business owner, but from the perspective of how can we help the community, what can we do there, how can we make life easier,” he says.
White and King have recruited a recent graduate from Dalhousie University’s medical program, and will also work with medical students from the school’s residency program as a recruitment and retention initiative.
White, who hails from Pictou, says this program was the major factor in his own decision to stay.
“I’m here because I knew the doctors and knew the space. I knew the area, the hospital and the building, and had ties here, so when it came time to graduate and look for a job, that connection was already there,” says White.
But the trio acknowledges the new centre cannot fix the doctor shortage on its own. Johnston, who grew up in New Minas, says it remains vital that the province continue recruitment efforts.
They all agree that a new health centre could be just what’s needed for the province to entice more new doctors.
“There are other pieces that have to be in place – the government is responsible for a lot of those – but if we create an environment that’s warm and welcoming and feels nice… people really like that,” says Johnston.
King says the new centre was also conceived as a solution to the increasing lack of space in their current offices. They estimate that once open, close to 2,000 patients will come through the new health centre each week for family medicine alone.
“For us, we’ve added a nurse practitioner and a family practice nurse in the last couple years, so we just don’t have enough physical space to run a clinic efficiently,” says King.
“What we’re trying to do is create a patient-centred approach so when they come in, they feel welcomed and comfortable.”
The project partners are looking to break ground within the next few months and to have the building operational for key tenants by the fall of 2019.
All three doctors say they are “confident” the centre will show any doctor considering practicing in Nova Scotia that it is a place with a future for them.
“It’s not just in Ontario that you can do these things – it’s important to be able to say and show that we can do this here, too,” says Johnston.
“It’s not easy, but it can be done.”
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