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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A duty to care – thoughts on doctors leaving Digby

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor

DIGBY, NS – The news of two young professionals leaving our little town of Digby just one year into their service sends shock waves into the community.

Perhaps service is the wrong word here and we should acknowledge that, for some, providing care in a rural, but certainly not an isolated place, is imagined as a stepping stone back home, where home is likely in the city. And so, the aspect of care, which is part of what it means to be a certain kind of professional operating under an oath to do no harm, slides in the face of the opportunity to fast track the real project which is to go there, do a bit of work, and get out as soon as possible.

In other words, the real project we see emerging here involves taking care of yourself, which seems at odds with professional ethics that are supposed to be particularly strict in medicine. Medical professionals are well paid, in part because they have highly specialized knowledge and abilities, that take a long time to learn, but also because they care for others beyond what would be expected of the lay person.

In times of great shortage, rewards and bonuses are taken for granted, or simply taken. Despite contractual arrangements, the rewards such as low or non-existent rent, assistance with relocation, and so on, are read by the practitioners as entitlements and not as the gifts of a caring community trying to do better by its professionals. These gifts, I suppose, can be seen as bribes that are easily discarded once opportunity arises.

No doubt, there is a twinge of conscience somewhere in the mix, but the guilt fades quite quickly once the self-care project of landing where you really want to be is in sight. As the East African praise poet once said to those standing at the gates of the city, ‘Why are you standing there? Go through the gate or you might as well take a rope and hang yourself.’ The health authority supports these professionals as they jump ship and go to the city because the authority fears losing their skills to other provinces.

Indirectly, the health authority and government are saying to the citizens of rural Nova Scotia come along to the city. Forget your lives in the country. This last desperate act of relocation is the one the health authority and our government seems to endorse for our communities as those entities support the fleeing professionals.

Sadly, what the professionals flee is the kindness, the good will, and gratitude of the very souls, elderly, mothers, children, and the sick that they abandon.

The resilient people in rural Nova Scotia are staying home.

Tony N Kelly,

Little River, Digby County


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