HALIFAX: The departure of Dr. Jeannie MacGillivray, a surgeon who was serving at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital and also working out of the Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, was a hot topic during the April 9 sitting of the legislature.

Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster used Question Period to bounce some questions off Health Minister Randy Delorey about what can be done to keep the surgeon working locally.

“I’ve raised this issue in the past, and I along with Dr. Jeannie MacGillivray and Dr. [Neelakantan] Pillai met with the Premier a couple of weeks back, and the hope was that something could be done for her,” MacMaster told The Reporter last week.

“She wants to work in the area. She was based in Antigonish, and that was good because she was then able to do work in Inverness, but over the last few weeks, nothing has changed. I was disappointed with that, and I decided to call the Minister of Health to task about his lack of action to help her.”

MacGillivray’s patients were made aware of her resignation last December, and her letter of resignation was circulated on social media. The main reason for her departure, according to the letter, was that her attempts to make her practice more sustainable were not acceptable to administration.

Dr. Pillai is a long-serving surgeon working in Inverness.

“I think the people in Antigonish are lucky to have the Minister of Health, but it doesn’t seem to be paying any dividends for the local area, at least in this instance,” MacMaster said.

“I’m not asking for special treatment for Antigonish, I’m asking about why he’s not concerned that 10 physicians have left Antigonish in the last year. One is Dr. MacGillivray and she was part of the plan for Inverness to keep the operating room going, should Dr. Pillia retire.

“I’m going to continue to find ways to make it painful for the government to ignore helping her.”

Delorey responded that MacMaster’s characterization of doctors leaving Antigonish is not fair. He noted that MacMaster was omitting information regarding specialists and family physicians who’ve recently been recruited to the area.

“The member fails to take into account the efforts that I’ve taken as an MLA to connect with the local recruitment team and coordinate through my constituency office when there are prospective physicians coming to town to visit to have that meeting,” Delorey said.

“In fact, I believe there was a meeting just organized this week. I had the opportunity to attend one of those meetings, which resulted in a psychiatrist and an anaesthetist to come to Antigonish.”

MacMaster noted that his constituency of Inverness is done no favours by the departure of the Antigonish surgeon.

“Dr. Pillai will eventually retire, and he was counting on Dr. MacGillivray to keep the operating room going in Inverness,” MacMaster said. “An opening remains for a surgeon in Antigonish. The minister’s health authority has told Dr. MacGillivray to apply, yet they have done nothing to address the issues which have forced her to resign. She has been working in the Valley doing locums while there is vacancy for that too in Antigonish.”

Delorey said work is being done to remedy the issue.

“As I’d indicated previously, recruitment efforts continue and they’ve continued to be successful in Antigonish and the surrounding communities,” he said.

“We’ve had several specialists come both in Cape Breton and in Antigonish for both specialists and family physicians. These recruitment efforts will continue as we support to the people of health care not just in the community of Antigonish, not just in Inverness, not just the Strait, but from one end of this province to the other.”