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Lack of physicians forcing Lower Sackville walk-in clinic to close

WATCH ABOVE: The lack of family doctors is being attributed to the closure of a walk-in clinic in Lower Sackville. Alicia Draus has the details.

A walk-in clinic in Lower Sackville, N.S., has been forced to close its doors for the time being due to unsuccessful attempts to recruit doctors.

The Community Care Walk-in Clinic on Cobequid Drive issued the notice of closure on Friday.

“It is with tremendous sadness and frustration that we have made the decision to close our walk-in clinic,” the notice reads.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to recruit new physicians to work at this clinic, we have been unsuccessful, leaving an untenable work schedule for those of use remaining at the clinic.”

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READ MORE: Doctors Nova Scotia demand ‘immediate action’ on physician shortages

The notice says the last day of clinic operation will be on Tuesday, but it will likely reopen in May under new ownership.

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Sackville-Cobequid NDP candidate Lara Fawthrop shared a photo of the notice Saturday morning. She’s calling on the premier to step in.

“This is the number one conversation we’re having at the door right away, as soon as the door opens. There’s a health-care crisis we need a fix,” said Fawthrop.

Sherry Mulligan, who was at the clinic on Saturday to get checked for bronchitis, says the clinic is crucial to the community.

“I could not get in to see my doctor for weeks, I’m sure. I don’t want to burden the emergency room around the corner, so having a walk-in clinic that you can see someone immediately is a necessary thing,” said Mulligan.

Dr. Cindy Marshall was among five physicians who opened the clinic in 2008. They see about 20,000 patients annually, but say the recent loss of three doctors is taking a toll.

“We really can’t meet the needs of the clinic in addition to maintaining our practices,” Marshall said.

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“Lots of physicians don’t want to do after-hours call, especially in a setting where the remuneration for after-hours work is less than what it would be for your office, so it’s a disincentive.”

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Marshall says they’re hoping someone will step in to take over the clinic and reopen it soon, but there’s no guarantee.

“I can tell you other clinics in the area are struggling as well, trying to find adequate coverage and are often closed which means these patients are going to have to leave our community to get care which is unacceptable,” she said.

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According to Doctors Nova Scotia, compensation is one of the biggest issues facing doctor retention and recruitment in the province.

“The doctors of Nova Scotia are compensated around the bottom of the scale for the country,” said Dr. Gary Ernest, president-elect for Doctors Nova Scotia. “If you look at family physicans, they’re right at the bottom of the scale.”

“So why would a family physician come here, versus going to another province where they can make substantially more?”

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McNeil’s government has fallen under increased scrutiny in recent days over its handling of the doctor shortage after a woman with cancer called out the premier for not declaring a health-care crisis in the province.

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READ MORE: Can’t ignore frustrated patient’s ‘heartbreaking’ video, doctors group says

Inez Rudderham challenged the premier to have a face-to-face meeting in the video, which has since been viewed over 2.6 million times.

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McNeil said he has seen the video and the Department of Health is reaching out to Rudderham, but stopped short of saying there is a health-care crisis.

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