Doc­tor short­age putting strain on fam­ily

Port Hawkes­bury woman feels her fam­ily’s health is at risk

Cape Breton Post - - HOT ONLINE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON cshan­non@cb­post.com

Regina Ropek is anx­ious. Both she and her teenage son have se­ri­ous health is­sues and they are with­out a fam­ily doc­tor.

Ropek said a re­cent con­flict with her doc­tor in Port Hawkes­bury forced her to seek out a new fam­ily physi­cian.

She soon re­al­ized the search for a new doc­tor meant more than a few sim­ple in­quiries over the tele­phone or In­ter­net.

“I’ve been call­ing all over the is­land. I’ve been call­ing 811 and I’ve been call­ing the (Nova Sco­tia Col­lege) of Physi­cians and Sur­geons,” Ropek said.

“I’ve been try­ing ev­ery­where. I called the hos­pi­tal in Syd­ney speak­ing with the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor there, but still noth­ing.”

Her son, who suf­fered a head in­jury sev­eral years ago, must man­age hand tremors and other ail­ments. He has an ap­point­ment with a neu­rol­o­gist in Hal­i­fax at the end of the month.

With­out fol­low-up care a fam­ily doc­tor could pro­vide, Ropek isn’t sure her son will re­ceive the qual­ity treat­ment he needs.

Then there are the health is­sues she’s fac­ing. A suf­ferer of fi­bromyal­gia, Ropek, who’s orig­i­nally from New Water­ford, is ex­pected to see a spe­cial­ist in Syd­ney due to a new un­di­ag­nosed con­di­tion.

She said she was rushed to hos­pi­tal Thurs­day when she no­ticed swelling in her breasts.

“I need a fam­ily doc­tor. I was cut off of all my med­i­ca­tions and now no other doc­tor wants to give me my med­i­ca­tions. It’s been a long, hard road, let me tell you.”

Ropek’s in­abil­ity to find a doc­tor of her own is a story that could be told many times over by other Cape Bre­ton­ers.

The Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity is seek­ing 13 new gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers for its eastern zone, of which Cape Bre­ton is a part, said Greg Boone, who speaks on be­half of the health au­thor­ity.

He said the health au­thor­ity is al­ways re­cruit­ing new doc­tors to the area.

How­ever, there’s con­sid­er­able strain be­ing put on the sys­tem now that six fam­ily doc­tors have re­tired or re­lo­cated, and another seven plan to do the same over the next 18 months.

Boone said the prob­lem seems to be “cycli­cal.”

“It’s ob­vi­ously a chal­lenge,” he said.

“For us, we have to treat it as a marathon, not a sprint.”

The fact is, Boone said, there will al­ways be physi­cians “com­ing and go­ing,” and it may be­come a greater chal­lenge one year and less so the next year.

There’s also the added layer of at­tempt­ing to lure spe­cial­ists to the area.

Re­cently two geri­a­tri­cians in­di­cated plans to leave their re­spec­tive prac­tices. There’s also a need for ob­ste­tri­cians and gyne­col­o­gists, psy­chol­o­gists, among other health-care pro­fes­sion­als in Cape Bre­ton.

Right now, Boone said the big­gest ob­sta­cles to re­cruit­ment are the lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for a part­ner or spouse, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren, and the fierce com­pe­ti­tion within the province and across the coun­try.

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