Vac­ci­na­tions a strug­gle with­out fam­ily doc­tor

One Nova Sco­tian woman is frus­trated by the lack of pri­mary care op­tions for her child.



Jen­nifer Fox moved to Nova Sco­tia in 2015, she, like many other Nova Sco­tians, re­quested to be put on a wait­ing list for a fam­ily doc­tor. In the mean­time, she got preg­nant. “That ac­tu­ally was the only way I was able to get a fam­ily doc­tor, be­cause in the hospi­tal given that you have a new­born, they kind of as­sign you a fam­ily doc­tor,” Fox ex­plains.

Fox was able to get her son’s rou­tine vac­ci­na­tions for two and four months. But when she called to sched­ule the next round of shots, she was told her doc­tor had left the prac­tice.

She says she was given no no­tice and no one had any in­for­ma­tion for her.

Now Fox is left back where she started three years ago, ex­cept this time with a one-yearold who needs to get rou­tine vac­cines.

Cur­rently in Nova Sco­tia, there are over 50,000 peo­ple wait­ing to get as­signed a fam- ily prac­ti­tioner, or roughly six per­cent of the prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion. That wait­list means ac­cess to rou­tine vac­ci­na­tions for new­borns and young chil­dren aren’t easy to come by.

Robert Strang, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for the NSHA, says the cor­re­la­tion between im­mu­niza­tion rates in Nova Sco­tia and de­creas­ing pri­mary care op­tions is some­what hard to make, due in part to the lack of data.

“We ac­tu­ally don’t have a good sys­tem for mon­i­tor­ing our vac­ci­na­tion rates,” he says. “It’s one of the chal­lenges we have...We can’t ro­bustly mea­sure and mon­i­tor.”

The NSHA is work­ing on a sys­tem for a new im­mu­niza­tion reg­istry called Panorama. Lori McCracken, health pro­tec­tion man­ager for the north­ern zone of the prov­ince, hopes this new data­base will help pub­lic health find out where peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing bar­ri­ers and how best to help them.

Dis­patcher: OK, what is the ad­dress of the emer­gency? “We can al­ways do bet­ter,” she says. Last year, Hal­i­fax saw sev­eral cases of measles and mumps out­break. Ryan Som­mers of the NSHA says this wasn’t a cor­re­la­tion to the doc­tor short­age in Nova Sco­tia specif­i­cally, but rather a warn­ing sign for all about what can hap­pen when you don’t im­mu­nize.

But get­ting a vac­ci­na­tion isn’t easy with­out a doc­tor. Vac­cines can only be given through a pri­mary care physi­cian or through the NSHA, which pro­vides al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments for peo­ple who don’t have ac­cess to a fam­ily doc­tor, such as walk-in clin­ics. But there are none of those al­ter­na­tives on the penin­sula or in Dart­mouth, says Fox. Fox re­lies on tran­sit and is a sin­gle mom who’s back work­ing part­time.

“If these are the bar­ri­ers that peo­ple are en­coun­ter­ing, I wouldn’t be sur­prised if peo­ple just don’t even do it. Or if they have the in­ten­tions of do­ing it and things get in the way,” she says.

Caller: Just a mo­ment. (Per­son in the back­ground talk­ing.) Caller:

If you could let them

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