N.S. couple felt they won ‘doctor lottery’ after years on wait-list. Now they’re back on it

Click to play video: 'Halifax-area family upset family doctor closing practice just 8 months after opening'
Halifax-area family upset family doctor closing practice just 8 months after opening
A Halifax-area family is expressing their disappointment after they learned their family doctor is closing their practice just eight months after it opened. The family says they’re angry and frustrated after already waiting years on a waitlist and are worried for what’s to come. Amber Fryday reports – May 7, 2024

When Len and Lyn Creighton found out last year they were being connected with a family doctor in their hometown of Windsor, N.S., they felt like they had won the “doctor lottery.”

“It’s like, ‘We won!'” described Lyn. “You’re excited, as if you won an actual lottery.”

The couple had been on the province’s Need a Family Physician Registry for several years. That waitlist numbers 157,264, or 15.9 per cent of the population, as of April 1.

Now, eight months after meeting that new doctor, they’re being told their doctor is closing their practice — and the couple is back at the bottom of that ever-growing waitlist.

“It’s a little frustrating and irritating to say the least. Just trying to retain a physician in this province lately. So, unfortunately for us, we’re again, after waiting several years before on the list … still waiting again for another physician,” said Len.

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The family was told in July 2023 that there might be a physician opening up a practice at the Avon Medical Clinic.

“We basically went in September for a meet and greet with the physician and then had our first appointment in December and haven’t seen the physician since then,” said Len.

He says last week, they received a letter that said the physician would no longer be available to them as of Aug. 1.

Not only that, the couple has to — once again — obtain their medical records at their own cost.

Click to play video: 'Clinics reaching breaking point as N.S. doctor shortage persists'
Clinics reaching breaking point as N.S. doctor shortage persists

They had purchased their records for around $300 a few years ago after losing their original family doctor, and passed them on to their new doctor. They expect they will now have to eventually pay again for their records, which they describe as “incomplete.”

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“We’ve been using Maple (app) for the last four years. So those records really aren’t all that up-to-date because we’ve only seen the (Windsor) physician once. So there’s not a whole lot of more information that’s been put on it,” explained Len.

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“It’s just really frustrating, the fact of having to pay all that money for incomplete medical records.”

Both Len and Lyn have diabetes, and require regular medication, bloodwork and follow-ups, which they have been using the Maple app for. They say while the virtual appointments have been a good option, they prefer having a doctor who can follow their medical history.

In Lyn’s case, her family physician had taken care of her since she was four years old, and was their children’s doctor too. That physician retired a decade ago, and she’s been looking since.

“It was the whole family history thing, he knew everything about my family. He dealt with my my mom, my sister. So he had the whole thing and it was never an issue or never even thought of like, ‘Oh no, down the road you’re not going to have a doctor.’ That was never a concern.”

They couple is speaking out because they say they want to know what the province is doing to retain family physicians and improve the situation.

“You never should have to worry about having a family physician or being able to go somewhere if you have a medical issue,” said Lyn.

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“As we’re getting older and our province is getting older, what’s going to start happening?”

‘More work to be done,’ says province

In a statement to Global News, the Department of Health and Wellness said it knows there is “more work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction and our focus has not waivered.”

The department confirmed a registrant on the Need a Family Practice Registry cannot go back on the list “with their original request date if it has been longer than 6 months since they have been placed.”

In the Creighton’s situation, they have been off the list for over that time, so they will have to put their names back on the registry and start from scratch.

“We understand losing a family physician can be a worrying situation, but we want to assure everyone that Nova Scotians have more access points to receive care than ever before,” the statement said.

“In the Windsor area specifically, there are several in person options to receive primary health care, such as the Hants Health and Wellness team, a community pharmacy primary care clinic, four additional pharmacies, and a diabetes centre.”

Click to play video: 'Code Critical: Health minister says province is working to fix health care'
Code Critical: Health minister says province is working to fix health care

The department went on to say that there is “ongoing work” to add new resources to the area and more information will be shared later this year.

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As for what the province is doing to recruit and retain health-care workers, the department says that work is ongoing as well.

“(This includes) the recent agreement signed between the Province and (Doctors Nova Scotia) that amounts to about a 16.5% increase over 4 years, providing health and dental benefits, electronic medical records grants, funded locum coverage and continued medical education funding.”

The Creightons, however, remained concerned.

Not only do they not have a family doctor, neither does Len’s mother, who has stage 4 cancer.

“This is the reward of retirement. This is the reward of growing old in this province. I can’t accept that,” said Len.

“It just doesn’t seem like there’s any solutions. It just seems like there’s Band-Aids that are being applied to major issues.”

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