Doreen Legere, director of therapeutic services for Miramichi, says a staffing shortage is to blame. (Facebook)

About 500 people in Miramichi have been dropped off the waiting list for physiotherapy because the Horizon Health Network says the list is so long, those patients will never get served.

A letter to the patients, who have all been on the wait list for at least six months, suggests they seek private therapy instead.

"Well, after almost two years, it was kind of put in writing what I assumed — that it was never going to happen," said Jean Williston, who has osteoporosis and scoliosis.

"I still had that hope. But that ended that hope," she said.

Doreen Legere, Horizon's director of therapeutic services for the Miramichi area, says the wait list has been growing for the past five or six years.

"Our problem is that we have a vacant, temporary position, and that we’re trying to recruit for that position, but we haven’t been successful so far," she said.

"I felt that I was kind of misleading physicians and the people that were on the wait list that they were going to get services, when people were waiting so long to get services," said Legere.

"I wanted them to have a chance to find other ways to deal with the problem. So I wanted them to know, first off, that our wait list was so long, and we didn't have the services to keep up."

'Slippery slope'

Liberal MLA Bill Fraser, who represents Miramichi-Bay du Vin, calls the situation "unacceptable."

"We all know that resources are very limited. What worries me, is, is this the slippery slope to the next wait list?" said the former health critic.

"People that require these services need to be served. And it's unacceptable to tell people that they have to go to the private sector and pay, in order to receive these services," Fraser said.

Williston says she doesn't have any private medical insurance.

But she was a "bunch of knots" from being extra cautious about her movements after a specialist told her she would likely break bones if she ever fell.

So she decided to pay $70 out-of-pocket for an initial private physiotherapy session.

"I would feel for those who couldn't come up with the money to get this help," she said.

150 people still waiting

Health Minister Ted Flemming did not respond to a request for an interview.

But an email from the Department of Health contends "funding is in place for this service."

"This is a human resource and recruitment issue for Horizon Health Network," the email states.

The physiotherapy clinic is short one of three full-time physiotherapist positions due to a maternity leave, according to Horizon's website.

But Horizon officials say even if they were fully staffed, they wouldn't be able to catch up on the wait list.

There are still 150 people waiting for physiotherapy, some of whom will be waiting up to six months, officials said.