Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says the shortage of family physicians has become a crisis in Nova Scotia and he thinks the answer is more money.
On Wednesday, Baillie promised to double the amount of tuition relief available to medical school graduates, immediately hire 42 family doctors and make it easier for Nova Scotians who train abroad to come home to practise.
"Our approach is to incent doctors through tuition relief and through additional payments to get them into rural areas," he said. "I see that as using proper incentives to get doctors where they are needed most."
Baillie supports the expansion of community health clinics promised by the Liberals, but said immediate action is needed to recruit doctors to areas of the province where they are needed most.
The Tory plan includes offering up to $120,000 in tuition relief to 25 additional medical school graduates, as long as they agree to practise in under-serviced areas. Currently, 25 students are benefiting from that program.
NDP plan for ER overcrowding
NDP Leader Gary Burrill promised Monday to hire the doctors, nurses and other health professionals needed to staff dozens of new clinics across the province over four years. The party expects it will cost $120 million.
On Wednesday, he told reporters outside the Dartmouth General Hospital that Nova Scotians could trust his party to deliver on its health-care promises.
"The New Democratic Party is the party of health care," he said.
Burrill's focus was on ER overcrowding. His solution is to adopt the 15 recommendations outlined in a Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union report called Code Critical.
Burrill praises NDP actions under Darrell Dexter
He said one recommendation an NDP government would bring in immediately is an automatic case review whenever a patient has been on an inpatient floor for more than four months while waiting for a nursing home placement. The objective would then be to have that patient placed in an appropriate facility within 30 days.
Burrill blamed the current Liberal government for not doing enough to break a logjam of patients waiting to get into seniors' homes.
"When we were in office, [the NDP created] 1,000 nursing home beds. In the last 3½ years, zero," he said.
"At the same time, we are in the situation of overcrowding because we have so many people that can't access primary care anywhere else. This also is from a lack of investment."
Burrill said there's already existing money in the health budget to adopt the recommendations put forward by the NSGEU.
Wiping the dust off a 2010 report
Burrill said his plans were in line with a report commissioned by the Darrell Dexter government that was prepared in 2010 by emergency room physician John Ross.
Ross recommended more collaborative care clinics be established as a solution to ER closures, but he also said some existing emergency rooms should close.
Burrill sidestepped the question of whether some existing ERs should be closed or their hours of operation restricted, especially overnight.