A Moncton-area woman says she recently received a letter from her doctor explaining that she was being let go because she hadn't been in for a visit in three years.

The woman told CBC News her doctor explained in the letter that it would cost her $35 to have her medical files transferred to a new doctor, when she found a new one.

Dr. Ed Schollenberg, the registrar of the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons, said he has received half a dozen similar reports over the past few years.

"We've told physicians that if they think that patients have to come in a certain period of time in order to be part of the practice, they have to make sure patients know that in advance," he said.

"The dilemma then becomes, you know, what's a reasonable amount of time."

Schollenberg said he can intervene on behalf of patients if they are not given proper notice before being dropped.

Complicated issue

But the issue is complicated, he said, given the number of people in the province who do not have a family doctor and need one.

"One of the bigger complaints we have — and a far bigger problem — is patients who have no access to a family physician," he said.

"They'll phone every doctor in the place, who'll believe that they have as many patients as they can handle and will say, 'I'm not taking new patients.'

"Well, a system which encourages physicians to take on new patients, which might mean they have to keep track of the ones who have left, might be a good thing. But ... we've never figured out a good way to nail that all down."

The situation has created a dilemma for doctors, Schollenberg said.

"Physicians would like to know how many patients they have in their practice so they can know how many they can take on," he said.

"At the same time, patients want some sense of comfort and there are patients who just don't need to be seen that often."