By Richard Bell
On a recent stop for an event at Carroll’s Corner, Central Nova MP and Immigration Minister Sea Fraser told the Cooperator that after a six-year struggle, doctors and nurses practicing at the Eastern Shore’s three hospitals would finally become eligible for the Canada Student Loan Forgiveness for Family Doctors and Nurses.
The Cooperator has been calling for years for the federal government to allow the Eastern Shore’s three rural hospitals to take part in the Canada Student Loan Forgiveness for Family Doctors and Nurses. This program provides loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who agree to practice in rural areas. But the federal authorities refuse to allow these hospitals to participate because they are located within HRM, and are therefore not “rural.”
“It’s going to get done in 2023,” Fraser said, after first talking about the tragic emergency room death in Cumberland. “It’s going to be one more tool they can use to attract doctors. It’s not going to make everything better overnight. Many other rural communities in Central Nova already benefit from this program, and yet people have challenges accessing primary care.”
The next federal budget will have three changes in this loan forgiveness program. “First, we’re going to double the generosity of the program, which will make it a bigger draw for people who want to consider practicing healthcare in rural areas,” Fraser said. “Second, we’re expanding the number of health care professions that will benefit, not just doctors and nurses. And third, we’re going to deal with how to incorporate rural communities like the Eastern Shore that fall inside larger urban municipalities. There are not many communities across Canada that suffer from this current definition.”
Fraser said he wasn’t sure when the change would take place. “On her last visit to Nova Scotia, the federal budget administrator said publicly that this change would take effect in the 2023 calendar year.”