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Why Digby does not attract doctors

The people of Digby wonder why it is that Digby does not attract doctors. There are political reasons, yes, but I will not get into these. There are fundamental reasons for Digby’s lack of physicians.

Digby is a pretty place to live, yes, but a pretty place is not enough.

Digby, sadly, has no culture. Unlike our small neighbouring community Bear River, Digby has no interest in promoting an artisan culture. And though its historic culture is at least as colorful as Annapolis Royal’s, it has no interest in its history.

We were once a town called Conway, a town which was besieged time and time again by privateers who entered by way of St. George’s Strait (the ‘Gut’). To protect Digby from such attacks, a small militia was raised. Two batteries, with two 18-pound cannons each, were installed on each side of St. George’s Strait, and one was installed where Sydney Street now is. The privateers were sitting ducks for the eight cannons waiting for them. Hence, they stopped raiding Conway.

Another fundamental reason that physicians do not choose Digby is that most physicians are married, and unless the spouse works in the medical field, there are no jobs for him or her. An unhappy spouse does not make for a pleasant family life.

One then has to go back several steps to understand why Digby does not offer gainful employment.

Digby has what I call a have-not or welfare-type mentality. By that, I mean welfare in terms of depending on the government for sustenance. A successful, affluent community generates its own income.

Current Digby industries will never bring affluence to Digby. Fishing and tourism have proven that they cannot sustain a comfortable community economy. Taxation is obviously limiting as it draws from money that is already in the community. Most retail businesses, though they provide local employment, draw from money in the community and, for the most part, direct that money away from the community, and in many instances away from Nova Scotia.

What is needed for self-sufficiency is industry that produces products that it can offer on the global marketplace. Thereby, revenue comes into the community, not from the government, but from local production of revenue.

Compare this concept to a rechargeable battery. If the community requires the government to recharge its battery, it will–maybe–get enough to keep it going. But, if the community generates its own energy supply, then, the battery stays strong.

The next obvious question is what can Digby produce for the global marketplace.

The obvious answer is tidal power. We have the highest tides in the world, yet we let it sit doing nothing. I spoke to the former executive director of the Digby Area Learning Association to see what it would take to expand DALA to put out more engineers, welders, electricians, draftsmen so that tidal power in Digby might be a reality. I asked in Digby council what it would take to build an industrial dock in Digby so that tidal turbine parts could be loaded and unloaded. The answer was miniscule, compared to the potential benefit.

Lastly, I would like to make reference to two places whose economy turned around enormously in a very short time. One is South Korea, a once poor country that now has major corporations (Samsung, Daewoo, Hundai, LG, Hyosung) that sell massive amounts of products to the world. The other is Newfoundland, a have-not province that under the direction of a premier with vision turned its economy around in half a dozen years.

We can lament all we want about the lack of doctors in Digby, but, if we do not do something to provide attractive employment and make Digby an attractive place to live, we will never have physicians.


Dr. Ron Matsusaki is emergency room physician at Digby General Hospital and a former town councilor

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