New doctor's patient list fills up in 10 minutes

It only took 10 minutes after the phone line opened for a new doctor in rural Nova Scotia to fill her patient list, according to the South Shore Health Authority.

Bridgewater man said he tried calling 2,000 times

Doug 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. (CBC) (CBC)

It only took 10 minutes after the phone line opened for a new doctor in rural Nova Scotia to fill her patient list, according to the South Shore Health Authority.

Janet Simm, the health authority’s vice-president, said there are not enough spots in the region for all the people who need doctors.

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

The phone line was open just until the first 150 patients were accepted. Simm said that took less than 10 minutes.

She said no method, including a call-in line, is perfect when dealing with a doctor shortage.

“It was a collective decision based on those principles of equity and fairness. Ultimately we wanted to make sure everybody had equal opportunity to access the physician,” she said.

Technical glitches

On Monday Doug Merrett told CBC’s Information Morning he’s frustrated that after five years, he still doesn’t have a doctor.

He estimates his wife called the line more than 2,000 times to try to snag a spot with no luck.

When the line first opened there was a busy signal, then after three hours an automated message kicked-in to say the list was full.

Simm said they had some technical difficulties with the busy signal.

“We should have been able to indicate to people sooner that we were at capacity,” she said. “They wouldn’t have had to waste their time.”

Doctor shortage challenging area

Simm said one of their doctors recently retired, releasing 2,000 patients.

“Physician recruitment is a long-term investment,” shesaid.

Dr. Sheila Dwyer will be doing another intake within a few weeks after she sees this first group of patients.

The Department of Health has also approved two more doctors for Bridgewater.

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