Busy signal frustrates doctor-hunting patient

A Bridgewater man who has been without a doctor for the last five years says the busy signal that greeted callers to a new health-care phone line is indicative of a larger problem in Nova Scotia.

Phone line tried to match people with new doctor in Bridgewater

Collaborative emergency centres are part of the NDP government's response to overcrowding and closures at rural emergency rooms. The centres are essentially one-stop clinics that can see patients through same-day or next-day appointments and can handle most medical problems that aren't life-threatening emergencies.

A Bridgewater man who has been without a doctor for the last five years says the busy signal that greeted callers to a new health-care phone line is indicative of a larger problem in Nova Scotia.

Doug Merrett said despite the fanfare around new collaborative health centres, many people in rural Nova Scotia are still struggling to find doctors who are accepting new patients.

Last week the South Shore Health Authority introduced a phone line to match people with a new family physician who will be starting in Bridgewater later this fall.

Merrett had hoped to be accepted as a new patient, but was quickly frustrated by a busy signal.

The authority said Dr. Sheila Dwyer would initially accept the first 150 callers and a new automatic message was supposed to kick-in when the slots had been filled.

“We were hopeful...my wife actually took on the challenge. Had the phone ready and the headset on and started at 6:30,” he explained.

On the first attempt she got a busy signal.

“If you call a customer service line you very rarely get a busy signal, you end up in the bowels of some kind of automated phone system,” he said.

Merrett said his wife tried calling for three hours before the line closed.

By then, all the slots had been filled.

“So I figured every five seconds for three hours is 2,160 times, give or take some slowdowns,” he said. “You know if your Kindle breaks, after 2,000 busy signals you’re probably going to be really pissed off with Amazon.”

Merrett said after moving back to Nova Scotia five years ago he tried cold calling general physicians trying to find someone who was accepting new patients. He then called the South Shore Regional Hospital and was put on a waiting list.

He has yet to receive a call.

CBC’s Information Morning will be speaking with representative of South Shore Health on Tuesday.

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