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Mixed reaction from doctors to new medical school planned for Cape Breton University

The provincial government says it will spend $58.9 million to develop a second medical school in Nova Scotia at Cape Breton University in Sydney, pictured in an artist's concept drawing. (Cape Breton University - image credit)
Cape Breton University is on the fast track to creating its own medical campus, but the proposal is drawing mixed reviews from local physicians. 

Some say it will train more family doctors willing to work in rural areas, while others say the proposal relies too heavily on overburdened physicians who will be asked to provide hands-on experience for the new doctors in their clinics.

Dr. Maddy Ziss came to Sydney, N.S., to complete her residency — post-graduate training for newly graduated doctors — in 2016. At that time, she said there were only six medical residents in her program. There are now more than double the number in Cape Breton at any one time.

“I had an excellent experience being a family medicine resident here because I didn’t have to compete with anyone,” said Ziss.

“I got to do quite a few deliveries … [I] had great exposure in the emergency room and all the other clinical rotations. I didn’t have to stand in line behind a large line of other learners. I worry if we continue with our current student volume, and add more, I don’t know how that’s going to work.”

‘Feeling overwhelmed’

Ziss now teaches residents through an existing program offered in Sydney by Dalhousie University. From her experience, Ziss said there are already challenges to getting new doctors the real-world experience they need.

“There’s only so many clinics and only so much time that we have to devote to that teaching and I think a lot of us are feeling a bit overwhelmed with that,” Ziss said.

“My concern is, you know, if we’re rushed into this and people are tired and are already feel overburdened or overburdened by teaching responsibilities — are we really going to shine at our best and recruit people?”

Earlier this month, the province announced $58.9 million will be put toward developing the new campus. The plan is to train 30 new doctors each year in collaboration with Dalhousie University’s faculty of medicine. Students enrolled in the CBU program will be specially trained in providing care for rural Nova Scotians.

CBU says its med school will open in just two years’ time.

Courage and boldness

Dr. Jeanne Ferguson is a geriatric psychiatrist who has been working in Cape Breton for nearly 20 years.

Joan Weeks/CBC
Ferguson was born in Sydney, but was unable to complete her residency here in the 1990s. The specialist believes that school will encourage more doctors to put down roots in rural areas. 

“It’s been well observed that where doctors train, they often stay,” Ferguson said. “Many people in those formative years form relationships. They settle down.

“I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to navigate this. I think we can do it. I think it’s going to take some courage and some boldness. But I think it can be done and I think it’s going to have to be done because the alternative is what we have now.”

Ferguson said that with more than 129,000 people on a waiting list for family doctors, something has to change.

Although she’s not currently teaching any residents, Ferguson said she would be willing if asked.

More funding needed

The province’s recently announced the funding includes $49 million for a medical sciences building and related infrastructure, $6.2 million for a new collaborative care clinic and $3.7 million to expand an existing CBU health and counselling centre.

CBU and Dalhousie officials said more money will be needed for the new campus, adding that work is underway to begin site preparations by the summer. Both universities declined the opportunity to discuss the project in more detail.

“We’re in discussions now to determine the ongoing funding requirement to operate the campus on a day-to-day basis,” Tanya Brann-Barrett, CBU’s lead on the project, said in a recent interview with Information Morning Cape Breton.

“Those discussions are with CBU, Dalhousie and the province and it’s expected the province will provide an annual operating subsidy in support of the campus as is the case with Dalhousie Medical School.”

Dr. David Anderson, dean of the faculty of medicine at Dalhousie, said they are working collaboratively with the physicians in Cape Breton who are “the backbone” of delivering medical education through the program.

Anderson said two recent meetings were held with local doctors, but more talks are needed. He did not give specific information on how many doctors are needed to support the program.

CBC News sent requests to the provincial departments of Health and Advanced Education for an interview but were declined.

In a written statement, Communications Nova Scotia said students who are accepted into CBU’s medical campus must sign five-year contracts to work in the province after they complete their studies.

By focusing on rural medicine, the province says CBU graduates will likely take over for retiring doctors or choose to start their own practice.


Credit belongs to : ca.news.yahoo.com

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