Nfld. & Labrador

'We have nowhere to go,' patients of retired Holyrood doctor lament

Rosena Barron is struggling to find someone else to take on her and her family — and she's not alone.

More than 2,000 patients are looking for a new family physician, but finding little luck

Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara said she hopes virtual care might be an option for Holyrood as hundreds of patients are scrambling to find a new doctor. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

One month after a physician in town closed her practice, Holyrood residents are struggling to find a doctor to replace her, and health authorities are looking at the most efficient ways to deliver health care.

Rosena Barron was a patient of Dr. Wanda Whitty's for the 13 years. Now that Whitty has closed her practice, citing health problems, Barron is struggling to find someone else to take her and her family on as patients.

"I have checked with every doctor's office from Whitbourne Clinic in, looking to see if anyone is taking new patients, and nobody is taking new patients," Barron said.

Right now we are kind of at a loss because we have nowhere to go.- Rosena Barron

When calling around to practices hoping to find a new family doctor, Barron said she was advised to use a walk-in clinic, but as a Type 2 diabetic, she wants her own doctor who knows her medical history. 

"If I need to get something checked I need a family doctor that I know is going to look after me," she said. 

Barron said she wants to get a blood test done, but she doesn't know who will receive the results and ensure her health is in good order.

"Right now we are kind of at a loss because we have nowhere to go," she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

Creative solutions sought

About 2,000 people are left in the same position as Barron, looking for another physician without success. 

Kim Ghaney, a Holyrood town councillor, told CBC News the town is hoping to find a creative solution to the problem — if it's not another general practitioner, then maybe a nurse practitioner or virtual care will fill the need.

Dr. Wanda Whitty worked out of the Eastern Health office in Holyrood. (Google Earth)

Barron, meanwhile, said she believes virtual care is a possible solution, but she would rather be able to sit down with a doctor face to face.

"If that is the only option I got then that is what I got to do," she said. 

However, some residents — like Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara — feel virtual care might be a better option.

"I would probably prefer that for things that I don't actually need to go in for any physical thing," said Pye-Beshara, who added she is also having a difficult time finding a new family doctor following Dr. Whitty's departure.

"I would rather do that. It's more convenient."

That said, Pye-Beshara said she will greatly miss her previous family doctor. 

"I liked that she cared and she really did take care of her patients," she said of Whitty.

"She didn't just look at solving the symptoms; she really talked about what was causing any issues."

As for what will happen in the area, Eastern Health said it will be holding its regularly scheduled community consultation in Holyrood starting Sept. 30.

The Department of Health and Community Services, in a statement, said, "When it comes to the recruitment and retention of family physicians, different things work for different communities."

While the department didn't specify plans for Holyrood, it pointed to its primary health team models to address physician shortages in places like Grand Bank and Bonavista, and soon in Botwood, Gander, Corner Brook, Bell Island, Sheshatshiu and on the Connaigre Peninsula.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show


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