Doctor shortage putting strain on family
Port Hawkesbury woman feels her family’s health is at risk
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.