HALIFAX: The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) has received interest from a physician considering locating in Richmond County.

NSHA Eastern Zone spokesperson Greg Boone confirmed last week they are in discussions with a physician.

“In this situation, we have someone who is interested in the area and those discussions are continuing,” Boone said on March 14. “In this situation, we’re hopeful and we’re also encouraged that the current candidate would choose the area to practice.”

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Because recruitment involves confidential negotiations, Boone said the NSHA cannot discuss a timeline or other specifics until they have the all the regulatory and licensing pieces in place, have a formal commitment and the physician is practicing locally.

Other factors that influence how long talks can take place include the current location of the interested party and the physicians’ current duties.

“There are a number of elements that need to be put in the place and finalized, and until that’s done, it’s not appropriate for us to go ahead and say we have a physician because we want them on the ground and practicing, and then we can say they’re here and they’re committed to the area,” Boone said.

After the sudden departure last summer of Dr. Yvonne Nault from St. Peter’s, regular emergency room closures at the Strait-Richmond Hospital and St. Ann Community and Nursing Care Centre, and with thousands of local patients without a doctor, Boone said the NSHA has been hard at work.

“We currently have one vacancy in the area and that’s what we’re working towards, but it doesn’t mean we just recruit one family physician,” Boone noted. “… If we have people who are interested in Richmond County, more than one position interested in Richmond County, we’ll be there to talk with them and see if they’re interested.”

Boone said the NSHA continues to use aggressive methods in physician recruitment. This includes advertising, travelling around the province and beyond, having recruiters reach out to medical students and medical residents, attending recruitment fairs and events, employing the contacts of physicians currently under the NSHA, and acting on tips from the public.

Boone said communities are also invaluable in promoting their areas.

“We’re focused on areas that we know that there are current vacancies and a need to fill because there are people hoping to continue with access to family physicians and hospital services that some of these family physicians would support,” he explained.

“… We have communities that have put together promotional Web sites and promotional videos to promote their areas, to show the lifestyle and cultural elements of communities.”

On November 2, the NSHA met with the Richmond County Physician Recruitment Committee, which was revived late last year. Boone said one of the main topics surrounded physician retention.

“They talked about how they can help us in certain ways with recruitment and retention because retention is an important piece,” he said. “It’s great to get a person to come to an area but you want to keep them in area, so the people can make it their home and become part of the community as well.”

Boone said the NSHA plans to hold more meetings with the group because of their importance in helping bring physicians to the area.

“From our perspective, we know that the committee has been active in the past and it’s important because we can’t do it alone,” the spokesperson acknowledged. “The communities show themselves as what they have to offer, as welcoming communities, and that all fits into the mix of people making a decision to locate in Richmond County or the other areas of the zone.”

In the meantime, Boone added that physician recruitment in the area covering Antigonish and Guysborough counties, along with Cape Breton, is ongoing.

“We’re recruiting, basically, every day,” Boone said. “We don’t get into specifics about how long we’ve talking with potential candidates. We are always talking with potential candidates.

“We work to encourage them to consider the area as a great place to come, and work and play.”