Medibus frustrated: Dr. Buchholz says Nova Scotia Health Authority ‘not interested’

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on February 24, 2016

The MediBus is parked at the Municipality of Digby building, but it won’t be welcoming patients anytime soon.


©John DeMings photo

DIGBY – Medibus says the Nova Scotia Health Authority is not interested in doing business with them.

Representatives of the mobile health care clinic wrote to the Municipality of the District of Digby on Jan. 25 to thank the council for their support over the last two years.

In the letter Dr. Ken Buchholz, senior medical director and Jennifer Murdoch, executive director with Medibus, applauded the leadership council demonstrated in ensuring health care services are available here.

“Unfortunately, the NSHA is not interested in our service,” wrote the Medibus team. “We have tried on several fronts, but it appears that it will now be up to communities such as yours to continue to compel better solutions that work to meet the primary healthcare needs of people.”

Medibus hired a nurse practitioner supported by a physician via video and telephone conferencing to offer primary health care services from a mobile trailer as a pilot project in Digby County for a few months in the fall of 2013.

Health Minister Leo Glavine told the Courier in February 2014 that the health department was unable to “deal with it under the master agreement”.

Medibus representatives have been talking with the NHSA since then to find a solution.

Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson says he is disappointed.

“We need primary health care providers here, that’s clear,” he said. “The Medibus model looked like a very worthwhile alternative for providing service to people without a primary health care provider in our community and other parts of rural Nova Scotia.”

Wilson said he hadn’t heard anything from Buchholz or Murdoch since before Christmas.

He says Medibus had some early difficulties working within the provincial master service agreement, but they had, to the best of his knowledge, worked those out.

“The last I heard they were working on pricing so it also fit what was being paid to all other clinics in the province and I though they were close on that,” said Wilson. “Certainly they gave it the best possible kick at the can they could.

“I don’t know what the final stumbling block was, but it would be nice to hear what that was.”

Buchholz told the Courier by email that “Medibus as a private provider was apparently a difficult concept for the Department of Health and Wellness and now the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) to get their minds around.”

He said originally when Medibus proposed a province-wide and later a scaled down regional service, the price for that service was too high for the province.

Buchholz says the health department however encouraged Medibus to continue exploring opportunities.

Medibus recently provided temporary locum services in Rawdon Hills while that community transitioned to a regional collaborative care model.

“When the NSHA began to transition into health care services implementation and management after the re-organization, it became apparent that some of the leadership felt our services were not wanted or needed,” wrote Buchholz.

Buchholz said Medibus talked to the NHSA about working in Digby and Weymouth.

“However, discussions with NSHA were fruitless, even though we offered to provide an interim locum service to transition the community on a strictly fee-for-service model,” he said.

Buchholz did not answer questions from the Courier about whether Medibus would continue efforts to provide services here or in other areas of Nova Scotia.

Medibus Timeline

April 2013 – Medibus trailer parks in front of Digby Town Hall to introduce idea of service to the area (Courier article)

October to December 2013 – Medibus offers health services on trial basis in Digby, Weymouth and Bear River (Courier article)

January 2014 – Medibus announces they had self-funded the pilot project and were closed up until funding could be arranged (Courier article)

August 2014 – A health care co-op, organized by people associated with Medibus, begins recruiting members in the Digby area (Courier article)

November 2014 – Medibus tells Municipal council they are meeting with Dept of Health (Courier article)

October 2015 – Medibus holds flu clinics in Digby area (Courier article)

January 2016 – Medibus says Nova Scotia Health Authority is not interested