Corner Brook patients get on doctor's list, long wait for appointments

Two Corner Brook women, desperate for a family doctor, are finally on the list for a new medical office, but they'll have to wait months for an appointment.
Tarragh Shanahan spent hours on the phone Thursday trying to get through to a new medical clinic. (CBC)

Two Corner Brook women, desperate for a family doctor, are finally on the list for the city's newest medical clinic, but they'll have to wait months for an appointment.

"It's funny. I feel like I'm trying to get Justin Bieber tickets or something," said Tarragh Shanahan, who spent hours Thursday trying to get through to the Wellness Family Practice in Corner Brook.

Shanahan, who has atrial fibrillation — an irregular heart rhythm that requires constant care — has had four doctors in the last five years, who either retired or moved away.

'I feel like I'm trying to get Justin Bieber tickets or something."- Terragh Shanahan

"Because I don't have a doctor, I don't have a referral to a cardiologist," she said.

Shanahan's 86-year-old mother, who is on Warfarin, a blood thinner that requires monthly monitoring, is also looking for a doctor.

"We are in dire straits for doctors here on the west coast," she said.

"It does get frustrating when you have to go to emergency and you're there for hours and hours and hours knowing that what I have is not an emergency but you have nowhere else to go."

Shanahan's name is now on a list of people who swamped the phone lines at Corner Brook's newest clinic, which is accepting patients on a first-come first-served basis.

Even if patients got through to the doctor's office, they will wait about six months for an appointment.

"There was one moment today when I heard a voice and thought are you kidding me? But it was just voicemail," she said.

When she did get through at 2 p.m., the receptionist told her it could be months before the doctors hold a follow up "meet and greet." 

'At my wit's end'

That's what Leanne Renouf was told when she got through at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, 15 minutes before the deadline.

"I was at my wit's end," she said. And the wait isn't over.

"I was told it could be five-to-six months before I'd hear from anybody," said Renouf.

It took hundreds of phone calls to get through to the new Corner Brook medical clinic. (CBC)

"She [the receptionist] told me they have a lot of people without doctors and such a large list."

Renouf has chronic health problems, including a Vitamin B-12 deficiency, and has spent hours in the emergency room at Western Memorial Hospital because she doesn't have a family doctor.

Many people from around Newfoundland and Labrador, and from outside the province, have commented on the story since it aired Wednesday, saying the doctor shortage problem is not limited to Corner Brook.

There are 42 physicians with a work address in Corner Brook, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA), and another 38 practising in the Western Health Authority region, from Burgeo to Port aux Choix.

But the NLMA said some of those doctors may be specialists or are working out of hospitals in the region, instead of clinics.


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