Impact of new Atlantic Canada doctors' registry unclear, says head of N.S. college of physicians
The four physician-licensing bodies in the Atlantic region have agreed to create a single registry for doctors who want to work across provincial borders. But the head of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia says it's unclear how big an impact the move will have.
The Atlantic Physician Register is expected to launch by May 1.
The idea has been talked about for years as a way to eliminate barriers for doctors who would like to take shifts in neighbouring provinces. It was announced on Monday following a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers in Charlottetown.
"What we're talking about is making it easier for them to pitch in where it's necessary in other provinces," Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said on Sunday. He called the current licensing system "an onerous, complicated process."
"This will make it easier."
Dr. Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, said he was happy the colleges had been able to create a single registry for doctors who want to work inter-provincially but he wasn't sure how many would use it.
"It remains to be seen the extent to which this register will promote movement of physicians between the provinces and throughout our region," said Grant. "We'll wait and see."
'An added benefit'
Doctors will still have to apply for a licence to practise in their home province, but will have the option of paying $500 more to be placed on the regional registry. The college would then vouch for that physician's work and competency, which would automatically be recognized by the other colleges in the region.
"Our sense is this — for many physicians, particularly those whose practice has involved moving about through the region, this will represent, not only a savings in administrative time but a savings in money," said Grant.
He wasn't convinced the change would encourage more doctors to leave their home province to lend a hand elsewhere, but said travel might be more attractive to newer physicians.
"There's a fair number of physicians, particularly young physicians, who fancy locums, doing locum work and moving about," said Grant. "So I think for for a number of physicians this will be an added benefit."
He said some border communities might benefit most.
"[It] doesn't need to have huge numbers to prove its worth. If there's a weekend coming up where Amherst can't keep its emergency room open, and there's a doc in Moncton who at the last minute would prefer to do so, that's a tremendous effect."
Doctors will still be required to obtain hospital privileges and get billing codes from the individual provinces.
Nova Scotia has the most licensed physicians in the region, at 3,000. There are 1,800 doctors licensed in New Brunswick, 511 in P.E.I., and 1,600 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Doctors who are new to any province would still need to deal with that province to get a billing code in order to be paid for their work, and they would need to apply for hospital privileges to be able to order tests and lab work.
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