One of Newfoundland and Labrador's best-known doctors is leaving the province because she has reached her limit with frustrations with the health care system.

Dr. Lydia Hatcher, a past-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and a frequent voice for doctors, has worked in the province as a family physician for 31 years.

She said the province's health care system falls short of what it should be.

"We hear talk about oil and resources, and I'm thinking you want people to come here to work, and they're going to come here to the type of health care we're providing?" Hatcher said in an interview.

"It's just scary. It's frightening."

In a letter to CBC News, Hatcher said the quality of health care in the province "is sinking," and that wait times for some services are "unacceptable."

"We're one of the few provinces that doesn't have an electronic medical record — and this is vitally important," Hatcher told the St. John's Morning Show on Friday.

"The EMR was one of the important things highlighted in the Cameron Inquiry. We are way behind the eight ball on this."

Difficult to leave patients

Hatcher said with some pull from her family, it was not a hard decision to leave — except when it came to her patients, particularly those who suffer from chronic pain.

"I love my province, I love my practice, this is home for me," said Hatcher. 

"I just feel there's nowhere further for me to go. I feel terrible for my patients, and all pain patients in the province — but somebody else will have to pick up the torch."

Hatcher said she "got tired of seeing cutbacks, unsafe policies and lack of support in so many facets of health care, but in particular for patients with chronic pain."

Hatcher said about 25 per cent of the population over the age of 50 has some level of chronic pain.

She developed a counselling and chronic pain consulting practice about ten years ago, to better manage the health care of those who often had no one in their court to listen, and to understand their individual health issues.

Hatcher has had no success in her effort to lobby government about the importance of the establishment of an interdisciplinary chronic pain team for the province. The team-based approach to health care has been established in other Canadian provinces. 

"In other areas, Nova Scotia in particular, there are outreach clinics all over the province. Travelling clinics that can visit pain patients in their homes," said Hatcher.

Hatcher has taken a position as the head of family medicine at a hospital in Hamilton, Ont., where she will also be close to some family members. Hatcher moved to Newfoundland and Labrador 45 years ago, when she was 11.

She will also teach courses in pain management at McMaster University.