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Premier Tim Houston says family practice registry is outdated

Premier Tim Houston says he's focused on getting people the health care they need, when they need it. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Premier Tim Houston says he's focused on getting people the health care they need, when they need it. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

Premier Tim Houston told reporters on Wednesday that it's hard to say if his government will get rid of the need-a-family-practice registry in the future.

During question period at the legislature, Houston said the list, which is for people without a family practice or who have been told their practice is going to close, is outdated.

Last summer, Nova Scotia Health took the registry down for two months while it worked through all the names to determine who still needed to be on it.

It removed 17,500 people who no longer needed to be on the registry. As of March, there are 156,000 people registered, the highest it's ever been.

"The list itself is constantly evolving," Houston said, adding that a "lot of focus and energy" has been placed on the integrity of the data.

"At some point in time, you know, we're going to have to assess whether that energy can be better placed within the system elsewhere."

Houston said his government continues to focus on opening new pathways to care for people in need, including the expansion of virtual care and the creation of mobile clinics that travel the province and primary-care clinics based in pharmacies.

The premier said he's heard from doctors who have contacted people on the registry to offer them a spot in their practice, only to be told the person was already attached to a practice or was "looking for something different."

"There's lots of backstories, I guess, to the names on the list, but we're focused on those that are actually in need of care and making sure they can have access to care."

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said the premier is using anecdotes as a way to suggest people don't want a doctor.

"He increasingly says that people don't need to be attached to primary care," she told reporters.

"We think that's really a dangerous assertion. I have yet to talk to a Nova Scotian across this province who doesn't want to be attached to a health home, a primary-care practice, a doctor, whatever you want to call it."

Liberal Leader Zach Churhcill speculated that the Tory government is not proclaiming the Coastal Protection Act because because some of their party supporters do not want them to.
Liberal Leader Zach Churhcill speculated that the Tory government is not proclaiming the Coastal Protection Act because because some of their party supporters do not want them to.

Liberal Leader Zach Churhcill says virtual care and mobile clinics are not a substitute for a primary-care provider. (CBC)

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said the registry is more than twice the size it was when Houston was in opposition, and that virtual care and mobile clinics are not a substitute for a primary-care provider who can see patients in person.

"The premier said it was a crisis when 69,000 people in Nova Scotia didn't have a family doctor. That number is now near to 160,000 and he doesn't seem to think it's a problem. It is a problem."

The latest registry data show 35 per cent of the people joined because they were new to the area. Fifty-four per cent of people on the list have been told their provider is retiring, has retired or have closed their practice.

Ten per cent say they did not need a provider until now.

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