There was once a time when everyone could see a doctor whenever they needed to. If you go back far enough, doctors made house calls.

These days, more than 50,000 Nova Scotians don’t have a family doctor – never mind one that will come to your house.

The lack of family doctors and crowded Emergency Rooms are just two obvious symptoms of Nova Scotia’s healthcare crisis. They are problems that are directly connected. If someone can’t visit a family physician, the local ER is often the only place they can turn for care. It’s their only option.

This week, in a survey, I asked Nova Scotians about how they access healthcare. And, the results were eye opening.

Almost half of the respondents said they had gone to an ER to access primary care; things like prescriptions, vaccines and chronic illness management. More than half of those people said they waited longer than three hours to get that care.

Imagine how ERs would look if all those people could get their prescriptions refilled, get their shots, get their routine check-ups and get medical advice somewhere other than the ER. They would certainly be less congested. Imagine how much better their life would be if they didn’t have to spend hours in an ER.

The status-quo in healthcare is letting Nova Scotians down. People are frustrated. And, too often they’re scared about what will happen if they get sick.

It’s time to shake things up a little. Try new ideas. Relieve the pressure on our ERs. Give Nova Scotians peace of mind.

People who responded to our survey are ready to embrace change, to try innovative ideas that could make improvements to our chaotic system. Fifty-four per cent of them said they would be comfortable getting healthcare services over the phone or through the Internet. They like the idea of a modern-day house call.

At the same time, there are silly administrative hurdles that make it difficult for doctors to call patients and be properly paid for doing it.

Sure, a phone consultation is not always the solution, and it is certainly not for everyone, but sometimes it is just what the doctor ordered.

I am open to any ideas that will help improve access to care. We have to be.

Tim Houston

Leader Progressive Conservative

Party of Nova Scotia