NS Government: Investments to Improve Access to Care

Press Release

March 5, 2020

Nova Scotians want and deserve to be able to get the health care they need when they need it. That is why government is investing even more into improving access to care across the province.

Government will continue to work with universities to train more doctors and nurses this year. Twelve new first year medical seats will be added at Dalhousie University in August.

Government and its partners will also continue to provide more training and educational opportunities in rural Nova Scotia through expanded residency and clerkship programs. Based on the success of the clerkship program in Cape Breton, it will be launched on the South Shore this fall. Research shows people are more likely to stay in communities where they have trained.

More nurses will be trained from one end of the province to the other with 62 new first-year nursing seats being added at Cape Breton University and eight more at Dalhousie University’s Yarmouth campus. This is the largest and only increase in undergraduate nursing seats in 12 years.

These new training initiatives will complement other recruitment efforts such as the practice ready assessment program to help internationally trained doctors work in Nova Scotia and immigration programs specifically for doctors and other health professionals and a new fund to support community efforts around doctor recruitment.

Government also wants people to be able to get the medication they need. Nearly $21 million more will go toward things like family and seniors pharmacare and low-income family drug support programs. A new agreement with Nova Scotia’s 1,300 pharmacists allows them to prescribe birth control and medication for urinary tract infections and shingles. Pharmacists can renew prescriptions for 180 days for many items and as of April 1, government will cover the fee for all residents with a valid health card. It is all about giving Nova Scotians more options when it comes to accessing care.

“Nova Scotians have told us access to quality health care is their priority and it is our priority too,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “We are training and hiring more care providers, introducing new incentives and ensuring our trained professionals are working to their full scope of practice.”

This year’s budget sees an additional $75.3 million dedicated for doctor services and salaries. Under the new four-year agreement, family, emergency and anesthesia doctors will become the highest paid in Atlantic Canada and other specialties, like psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology will be among the highest paid in the region. Incentives to recruit and retain specialists in rural communities have been doubled and hourly rates for psychiatry outside Halifax increased.

Other health-care investments this year include:

  • $1 million for ovarian cancer research
  • $3.2 million to hire staff and for public education on the upcoming proclamation of the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act
  • Long-Term Care budget has increased to $612.4 million, up $5.3 million
  • Mental Health and Addictions budget has increased to $316.5 million, up $0.5 million
  • funding to Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre has increased to $2.1 billion, up $86 million


The Cape Breton University Nursing Program has been a strong contributor to the registered nurse supply for many years. The additional seats now added to the program builds upon this success and will enable CBU to better assist the registered nurse workforce needs in Cape Breton, but more broadly, provincewide. We are particularly pleased this new initiative seeks to encourage more African Nova Scotian and Indigenous students to pursue nursing careers and we look forward to substantial progress in achieving these desired outcomes. David Dingwall, president and vice-chancellor, Cape Breton University

Quick Facts:

  • government’s overall investment in the health-care sector this year is $4.82 billion
  • Nova Scotia is 4th in Canada when it comes to connecting patients with care providers (Stats Canada)
  • more than 440 new doctors have started working in Nova Scotia since 2016
  • 142 health-care professionals have been hired to work as part of collaborative family practice teams across the province; there are more than 85 teams, up from 39 in 2016
  • work continues on major health-care infrastructure projects including QEII New Generation and the CBRM Health Care redevelopment


Media Contact:

Heather Fairbairn
Cell: 902-717-2151 Email: Heather.Fairbairn@novascotia.ca


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