Doc­tor short­age leaves res­i­dent ‘out of luck’

Health de­part­ment try­ing to en­hance re­cruit­ment: min­is­ter

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front Page - BY ADAM RANDELL

Colin Crocker hasn’t had a fam­ily doc­tor since his physi­cian moved away from Gan­der in May.

The Gan­der man says when he vis­ited a walk-in clinic last month, he was de­nied ser­vice and turned away.

Be­ing ex­tremely asth­matic and hav­ing ex­ces­sive al­ler­gies, Crocker tried other walkin clin­ics in town but got the same re­sponse.

No other fam­ily doc­tor has picked up pa­tients left be­hind by his for­mer physi­cian.

“Liv­ing abroad, I’ve seen a num­ber of doc­tors in dif­fer­ent walk-in clin­ics across this coun­try and I’ve never been turned away in a med­i­cal clinic in my life un­til I came to Gan­der,” he said.

“Hav­ing doc­tors not will­ing to see a pa­tient is crazy. That just be­cause a doc­tor has left, you are out of luck.”

His only op­tion now is to see a doc­tor through emer­gency at James Pa­ton Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal, which treats pa­tients through a triage for­mat – pa­tient se­lec­tion is based on the sever­ity of their con­di­tion.

“So, you’d prob­a­bly have to wait four or five hours just to get a pre­scrip­tion,” added Crocker.

“Some­times it takes courage to even go and see a doc­tor, but now not even mak­ing a doc­tor ac­ces­si­ble with­out sit­ting down in emer­gency, which could pos­si­bly take away from peo­ple in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, is a bit crazy to me.

“To be hon­est it kind of dis­grun­tles you from go­ing to see the doc­tor.”

Crocker has reached out to doc­tors he knows, but no one was tak­ing on new pa­tients at the time.

Not alone

Ac­cord­ing to Health Min­is­ter John Hag­gie, Crocker is not alone.

In Hag­gie’s rid­ing – Gan­der – he said many cases have come across his desk sur­round­ing fam­ily doc­tor short­ages.

Not only is it a con­cern of res­i­dents, but also the busi­ness com­mu­nity, Cen­tral Health and the town it­self, he said.

A com­mit­tee has been es­tab­lished to try and stream­line the process.

“We go through cy­cles where Gan­der has chal­lenges with re­cruit­ment, cur­rently fam­ily physi­cians be­ing the pres­sure point,” Hag­gie said. “We are try­ing to act through my of­fice as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor for this, to see how we can en­hance re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion.”

With cases like Crocker’s, Hag­gie said treat­ment of pa­tients is an eth­i­cal de­ci­sion de­ter­mined by in­di­vid­ual prac­tices, and that fam­ily physi­cians are re­quired to pro­vide three months’ no­tice when leav­ing or mov­ing a prac­tice. This al­lows pa­tients time to seek new physi­cians.

“Ob­vi­ously there is a chal­lenge when there aren’t any (avail­able),” Hag­gie said.

“I think one of the is­sues is to try and work with the health au­thor­i­ties to seek what other op­tions there might be for get­ting pri­mary care to those pa­tients.”

How­ever, “it’s dif­fi­cult to per­suade the other fam­ily physi­cians to take on even more of a work load. I think we need look at what can be done through the Re­gional Health Au­thor­ity to aug­ment that in the short term, but those are dis­cus­sions that are on­go­ing.”

The health min­is­ter feels a new way of prac­tic­ing is needed, in which med­i­cal care is pro­vided through a com­mu­nity en­vi­ron­ment rather than a sin­gle doc­tor.

“We are still in a tran­si­tion be­tween the old physi­cian-de­liv­ered health care, to a much more com­mu­nity-based model through pri­mary health­care teams, where 80 per cent of rou­tine fam­ily medicine can be dealt with nurse prac­ti­tion­ers, mid-wives and other sup­port­ing teams,” he said. “But that change has not yet taken place in Gan­der and I think it’s put the cit­i­zens of Gan­der at a dis­ad­van­tage.”

Cen­tral Health

Cen­tral Health also ac­knowl­edges a short­age of fam­ily physi­cians in the Gan­der area, but can­not con­firm the ex­act num­ber as it falls un­der pri­vate prac­tice.

The health au­thor­ity also would not say whether it has seen more peo­ple com­ing through the emer­gency de­part­ment at James Pa­ton Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal be­cause of the short­age of fam­ily physi­cians in Gan­der.

It also did not say whether new pro­ce­dures or pro­to­cols have been put in place to deal with pa­tients with­out fam­ily doc­tors.

In a pre­pared state­ment in re­sponse to ques­tions from the Bea­con, Cen­tral Health stated that all pa­tients that come through emer­gency de­part­ments are as­sessed and treated.

“The Cana­dian Triage and Acu­ity Scale (CTAS) helps the emer­gency de­part­ment team to triage pa­tients and en­sure that the sick­est pa­tients are seen first,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

Cen­tral Health also said non­emer­gency vis­its oc­cur and that in­creased emer­gency vis­its are some­times an­tic­i­pated – such as flu sea­son, in win­ter due to mo­tor ve­hi­cle col­li­sions, and slips/falls.

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