‘Deeply concerning’: All 4 doctors at Halifax clinic to close practices

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All 4 doctors at Halifax clinic to close practices
WATCH: The announced closure of a Halifax family practice is prompting more concern about the state of health-care in the province. The south-end family practice is closing this summer, and it doesn't appear replacements for the four doctors leaving the clinic have been found. Vanessa Wright has that story. – Mar 2, 2023

All four family doctors at a clinic in Halifax are closing their practices — leaving thousands without a primary care provider — with one doctor saying “lack of support” was a contributing factor.

In a letter to patients, Dr. Maria Sampson said all four physicians at the Southend Family Practice, located in the Halifax Professional Centre on Spring Garden Road, are closing their practices as of Aug. 30.

“Despite working with the Nova Scotia physician recruitment team for over a year, they have not secured a replacement physician to take over any of our patients,” she said.

“I regret and understand the stress this will cause you. The current state of health care in Nova Scotia and the lack of support for primary care providers has accelerated this closure.”

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The other physicians are Drs. Sarah Brydie, Johanna Graham and Lianne Yoshida. Global News has contacted the practice to speak with the doctors and is awaiting a response.

The letter urged patients to plan and book their final appointments by May or June, and provided instructions for patients to get on the Need a Family Practice Registry.

The registry, which serves as a wait list for those needing a doctor, hit 133,595 people as of Feb. 1 — representing 13.5 per cent of the province’s population.

‘Deeply concerning’

Lisa Lachance, the New Democratic MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, said the loss of these physicians will leave at least 4,000 people without a family doctor.

“It’s deeply concerning. Primary health-care relationships are so important — when you have your babies and you need immunizations, when you have kids and they’re ill, and when you’re older and you need prescriptions renewed,” they said in an interview.

“Having that ongoing relationship is so essential to good health.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons responds to new regional registry'
Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons responds to new regional registry

Lachance said they had heard “concerning rumours” about the closure a couple of weeks ago, and patients received letters this week.

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With more than 130,000 people on the doctor wait-list, Lachance said patients affected by the closure may be feeling “hopeless.”

“These are 4,000 more that are going to go on that list, and I think that’s pretty terrifying for a lot of folks,” they said.

Lachance said the province needs to work on not just attracting doctors, but also giving them the supports necessary to keep their practices going.

“This is clearly an example of where the issue around retention isn’t being addressed. We hear a lot about recruitment, but we’re not hearing about retention,” they said.

Health minister responds

Health Minister Michelle Thompson told reporters Thursday afternoon that the doctors at the clinic had “some issues” around how they were supported in terms of overhead, and had requested “additional resources” — another doctor to share their workload.

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Thompson said they were “not able to reach an agreement.”

“Through those discussions, it’s my understanding that those additional resources would not, in fact, result in an increased level of access,” she said.

She said the province has “finite resources, and we need to make sure that we can improve and sustain access throughout the province.”

“I appreciate that it’s unfortunate, it’s very difficult for those patients,” she said, “but again, we will continue to work with Nova Scotia primary care providers to not only look at how we support them in their current practice, but how we improve attachment and access.”

Asked if it was better to not hire the fifth doctor, or to have all four doctors close their practice, leaving 4,000 without a primary care provider, Thompson said it’s her understanding that the doctors would stay in the province and work in other roles.

“Their skills will be used in other areas of the health-care system,” she said.

— with files from Vanessa Wright

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