A race against time

Bay Roberts cou­ple in search of doc­tor

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICHOLAS MERCER

Wally Wilo­horski is busy do­ing yard work around his Bay Roberts home on Sept. 11.

Donned in yel­low work boots, a pair of blue jeans ripped at the right knee, and an old grey sweat­shirt, Wally guides a red and black grass trim­mer through the tall grass just be­yond a white fence, his yel­low-rimmed cap pulled down over his fore­head.

He has been on his feet since 6 a.m., and will not be putting them up any­time soon.

His work ethic is ge­netic. Wally’s fa­ther im­mi­grated from the Ukraine in the early part of the 1920s to Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba and in­stilled the work ethic the Ukraini­ans are known for.

It was this work ethic that Wally car­ried into his work, first as an RCMP of­fi­cer and later, af­ter mov­ing to New­found­land, as a com­mer­cial fish­er­man and busi­ness­man in Bay Bulls.

Car­ing for ‘B’

Wilo­horski’s wife of 58 years, Ru­bina, has de­men­tia and it is nec­es­sary to give her 24-hour at­ten­tion.

From mak­ing sure Ru­bina, or B as Wally af­fec­tion­ately calls her, gets her daily snacks of ba­nanas and wal­nuts, to en­sur­ing she is washed and dressed for each day.

“I’ve got a full-time job, 24 hoursa-day. Plus, I’ve got to look af­ter the house, cook all the meals, do all the clean­ing, and wash­ing, all of that stuff,” he said.

Wally has no qualms do­ing what­ever is nec­es­sary to en­sure Ru­bina’s com­fort. It was a char­ac­ter trait passed down from his fa­ther and his grand­fa­ther.

“They taught me what I should do to help peo­ple” said Wally. “This is what I’ve taken onto my shoul­ders and I’m go­ing to un­til the day that I die.”

A tear runs down his weath­ered check as he lov­ingly glances across the ta­ble at B.

To make things eas­ier for her, Wally ren­o­vated the down­stairs por­tion of the cou­ple’s home. He placed a walk-in shower, toi­let and sink on the bot­tom floor, pre­vent­ing the need for B to travel up and down stairs dur­ing the day.

No fam­ily doc­tor

The cou­ple’s sit­u­a­tion will be­come more dif­fi­cult next month when their fam­ily doc­tor, Dr. Luis Al­berto Acevedo, leaves Bay Roberts.

At­tempts by Wally to find find an­other doc­tor will­ing to take on more pa­tients had been un­suc­cess­ful up to late last week.

This leaves the Wilo­horskis in a bit of lurch. With­out ac­cess to a doc­tor, it may not be pos­si­ble for Ru­bina to get the pre­scrip­tions she needs to treat her ill­ness.

Luck­ily, Acevedo gave Ru­bina a three-month sup­ply of her as­signed med­i­ca­tion.

“If it wasn’t for that, we’d be on a boat and up a creek with no pad­dles,” said Wally.

He said when his wife needs a new pre­scrip­tion he need only to go to the Bac­calieu Phar­macy in Spa­niard’s Bay.

“It’s on the com­puter over there,” he said.

While this is a tem­po­rary re­prieve, the cur­rent stock­pile of med­i­ca­tion will only last un­til Jan­uary.

Small win­dow

This three-month win­dow is not a large one for Ru­bina, es­pe­cially with the limited num­ber of op­tions avail­able to the cou­ple.

Wally asked their doc­tor re­cently what he could do to keep Ru­bina’s check-ups reg­u­lar.

“He said, ‘She can go over to the out­pa­tients depart­ment at Car­bon­ear Hos­pi­tal or the emer­gency ward and take our chances,’” he said.

An­other op­tion would be to take in a clinic on Thurs­days at the Hum­ber Med­i­cal Clinic of­fered by Dr. Robert Hum­ber.

“For two days, I couldn’t sleep,” he said, tears fall­ing again. “Holy smokes, what if I get sick? Thank God I’m not sick.”

Try­ing to get help

Stung by the news of his doc­tor’s pend­ing de­par­ture, Wally started mak­ing phone calls, and reached out to the me­dia to tell his story.

He also called Eastern Health, and an of­fi­cial with the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of New­found­land and Labrador.

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Eastern Health states any in­di­vid­u­als look­ing for a fam­ily physi­cian can visit the web­site for the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons.

Search­ing the web­site, the re­sults say physi­cians ac­cept­ing pa­tients can be found in Car­bon­ear, Har­bour Grace, Old Per­li­can and Whit­bourne.

How­ever, Wally does not have a com­puter and is un­able to search for him­self.

He was able to se­cure an ap­point­ment with a physi­cian at the Water­ford Hos­pi­tal in St. John’s on Nov. 21.

The hope is he will be able to ex­tend the pre­scrip­tion given by Acevedo.

What is de­men­tia?

Ac­cord­ing to the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, de­men­tia is a gen­eral term for a de­cline in men­tal abil­ity se­vere enough to in­ter­fere with daily life.

Ru­bina was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia just three months ago. How­ever, Wally said she had been ex­hibit­ing signs for two-and-a-half years.

“She’d ask what month it is, what day it is,” he said.

A big­ger prob­lem

The un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stance that Wally and Ru­bina find them­selves in is just one part of a big­ger prob­lem in the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion and be­yond.

Ru­ral New­found­land has, for a long time, had prob­lems at­tract­ing new doc­tors.

The in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Eastern Health reads that the prob­lem of re­cruit­ing health pro­fes­sion­als is one the or­ga­ni­za­tion shares with other health au­thor­i­ties both in Canada and abroad.

“Eastern Health’s re­cruit­ment ef­forts in­clude widely ad­ver­tis­ing in physi­cian jour­nals, post­ing po­si­tions on the NL Prac­tice web site, and cor­re­spond­ing with re­cruit­ment agen­cies who also post po­si­tions on their web sites that are seen na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” it reads.

It is not only the Wilo­horskis that are af­fected by the de­par­ture of Acevedo.

“How many more peo­ple are sub­jected to not hav­ing a doc­tor as well?” Wally asks rhetor­i­cally.

Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Wally Wilo­horski (right) has been work­ing tire­lessly to find his wife Ru­bina a new fam­ily physi­cian af­ter Dr. Luis Acevedo posted no­tice he is leav­ing the Hum­ber Med­i­cal Clinic in Bay Roberts on Oct. 15. Ru­bina was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia three months ago.

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