2,200 people in Holyrood area left without a family doctor this summer
Nobody wanted to take over the practice, so the town council is stepping up
More than 2,000 people were left looking for a family doctor last month when one practitioner closed up her practice in Holyrood due to her own health issues.
Now the town council is getting involved in the search for some sort of replacement.
Kim Ghaney, a town councillor and registered nurse, said patients knew about the clinic closure in advance, but some are still struggling to find a replacement. There is only one other family doctor in town.
"It's causing a lot of stress and a lot of frustration, especially for people living with chronic disease," Ghaney said. "Much like the rest of the province, there's a huge rate of chronic disease in our district."
Ghaney said she spoke with the receptionist from the clinic, who told her most of the patients were over the age of 55.
St. John's is about a 30-minute drive from Holyrood, but the capital city doesn't offer much hope in finding a family doctor either. According to FindADoctorNL.ca, one doctor is taking patients for a phone-in clinic, while another is taking prenatal patients only.
The next closest doctors taking patients are in Placentia and Clarenville, 80 kilometres and 140 kilometres away, respectively.
Ghaney said it's time for municipalities to take a bigger responsibility in health care. As a town trying to attract young people, access to health care is a major impediment.
"Having a family doctor easily accessible in a community is just as important as having a community school, or recreational services," she said. "If you don't have access to a primary-care provider in your community, it's not an attractive quality for any municipality."
Like any issue that may arise with our residents, we have to advocate for them- Kim Ghaney
The town's former doctor, Wanda Whitty, who practised there for more than 20 years, tried to find a replacement before closing up shop. She posted an ad looking for someone to take over the clinic, saying she had 2,200 patients and enjoyed her 24 years in the community "with an awesome group of patients."
She couldn't find a doctor to take over her practice, however.
Ghaney said they've written Eastern Health and had a meeting with their local MHA. They are hoping to find a creative solution to the problem — if it's not another general practitioner, than maybe a nurse practitioner or virtual care.
"Like any issue that may arise with our residents, we have to advocate for them," she said.
"It's a problem across the province and I think it's really important for municipalities and community leaders to take an active role in that because we are there for the residents in our communities."
- A previous version of this story indicated the Department of Health and Eastern Health had been asked to comment on the story, but they had not.Sep 12, 2019 12:10 PM NT