Nfld. & Labrador

Problems for Parkinson's patients include neurologist shortage, late meds, says doctor

Dr. Kyna Squarey of St. John's says she'll be more effective in Parkinson's care in private practice than she could ever be in a hospital. 

Dr. Kyna Squarey says she'll be more effective in private practice now than she could be in a hospital

There are more than 1,500 people with Parkinson's disease in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that number is expected to double by 2030, says Squarey. (Submitted )

A neurologist in St. John's says Parkinson's disease patients in Newfoundland and Labrador wait more than two years to see specialists and often don't get their medicine on time.

Dr. Kyna Squarey started a new private practice at the Newfoundland Balance & Dizziness Centre on Monday after leaving a position at Eastern Health.

Dr. Kyna Squarey says it takes more than two years to see a neurologist In Newfoundland and Labrador, and that wait is harmful to the long-term health of Parkinson's patients. (Submitted)

"I don't think we have enough neurologists in the province. We currently cover the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as St-Pierre-Miquelon," she said.

"There are half a dozen neurologists here in St. John's. And there are three outside the Avalon Peninsula. So that's a lot of people to take care of with neurological conditions."

Lot of gaps to fill

There are more than 1,500 people in the province diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and that number is expected to double by 2030, she said.

"So we need to have a system in place that can handle this. And presently I think we do have a lot of gaps to fill," said Squarey.

One of those gaps is in the general medical community, she said, adding that Parkinson's patients living in long-term care often don't get their medication on time, which can worsen their health.

Squarey said she'll be more effective in Parkinson's care in private practice than she could ever be in a hospital.

In her old job, she said, she spent most of her time treating acute health problems, like strokes and seizures, leaving little time to properly treat long-term conditions like Parkinson's disease. 

She blames that on a lack of specialists in the system.

Two-year waiting list

The wait list to see a neurologist in Newfoundland and Labrador is over two years, which Squarey says left her feeling like she could do more.  

"I was finding in my practice at the Health Sciences that many people I wish I could have diagnosed and seen earlier," she said.

"It might have affected their quality of life, and so that was one of the reasons I decided to move into private practice."

It might have affected their quality of life and so that was one of the reasons I decided to move into private practice- Dr. Kyna   Squarey

Parkinson's is a complicated medical condition, one that's not always understood by other health professionals caring for people with the disease, she said.

"So I think that brings up the importance of these patients having access and early access to treatment seeing people can provide the necessary services and support to them and their families."

Derek Staubitzer, executive director of Parkinson Society Newfoundland and Labrador, agrees.

Derek Staubitzer, executive director of Parkinson Society Newfoundland and Labrador, says it's not the old man's disease it's sometimes perceived to be. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

He said Parkinson's is not the "old man's disease" it's perceived to be and that means more demand for care. The definition of early-onset Parkinson's is when it's diagnosed in someone younger than 55, he said, but many of the members in the society were diagnosed in their 40s.

"It takes a real impact, obviously, on their lives because they are in their mid-career in most cases," he said. "Eventually the Parkinson's symptoms starts taking a toll on them where they're no longer able to work."

Squarey said she hopes to provide better prognoses for her patients with her private practice.

"My goal is to try and improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson's disease and their caregivers and to keep Parkinson's patients in their own homes as long as possible. And hopefully that's going to reduce the financial burden on our health-care system."

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