The already steep number of Nova Scotians without a family doctor is rising, according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

About 5.4 per cent, or more than 50,000, people in the province are doctorless. In May alone, 4,744 were added to the wait list through the Health Authority’s 811 service.

“I don’t want to put alarms out, but we’ve been in a crisis for the last few years,” says Dr. Manoj Vohra, a family doctor in the Truro area and the president of Doctors Nova Scotia.

The problems contributing to the lack of doctors in Nova Scotia are many, he said, including retirements, financial compensation and doctor burnout. “Most physicians have a hard time saying no,” he says.

While the 50,000 figure is already high, the actual number is likely even higher. The data relies on Nova Scotians self-reporting to the health authority that they don’t have a doctor.

“The info that we have is only as good as those that have registered with 811,” health services lead Ashley Ryer told CTV Atlantic.

Ryer and colleagues are trying to sell the idea of collaborative family practice teams to the province as a way of tackling both the growing waiting list and challenges facing the province in recruiting new graduates. There are more than 80 vacancies listed on the health authority website.

“We all know that new graduates want to work within collaborative family practice teams,” says Duane MacInnis, the health authority’s primary health care director for the northern zone. Collaborative strategies will also encourage physicians to provide more holistic care to patients, he says.

Some 26 community information sessions are planned across Nova Scotia to discuss collaborative strategies in health care in the coming months. The next scheduled session is in Shelburne next week.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown