Nova Scotia

Doctor leaving Dartmouth Pain Clinic says support would attract more specialists

Dr. Rosario Hernandez says she worked without pay to gain experience in the field of chronic pain.

Dr. Rosario Hernandez says she worked without pay to gain experience in field of chronic pain

Dr. Rosario Hernandez is one of two doctors leaving the pain clinic at the Dartmouth General, forcing it to close at the end of December. (Submitted)

After a decade working as an anesthesiologist, Dr. Rosario Hernandez decided to focus on treating patients with chronic pain.

For six months, she worked in the operating room two days a week and spent three days a week getting experience in the pain clinic. She was paid for her time in the operating room — but not for her time in the clinic.

For Hernandez, it was a choice that made sense because of her interest in the field.

"I was investing in what I wanted to do in the future," she said.

But paid training, she said, might provide an incentive to doctors interested in specializing in chronic pain.

"I think there should be a program that supports those doctors that want to get involved in chronic pain at the community level and I don't think that that exists."

Part of the solution, not the problem

Hernandez is one of two doctors leaving the pain clinic at the Dartmouth General Hospital, forcing it to close at the end of December.

Hernandez, who is currently working only one day a week in the pain clinic, said she's leaving because she wants to focus her entire practice on chronic pain.

She said she plans to take over for another pain specialist, Dr. David Bond, who recently retired from his practice on Tacoma Drive. She'll be taking on all of his patients, as well as bringing her patients from the Dartmouth General Hospital with her.

"I don't think my decision of going 100 per cent chronic pain is creating more problems. I think that it's part of the possible solution of taking care of the patients that I was seeing in Dartmouth," she said.

Opioid Treatment

Hernandez admits the closure of the Dartmouth Pain Clinic is problematic for patients who are taking high doses of opioids, saying those patients should be a priority.

"I don't prescribe opioids very often. I try very hard with other modalities of treatment," she said, acknowledging that once patients are on opioids, it can be difficult to decrease the dosage.

Hernandez said what's needed to help patients affected by the clinic's closure is clear communication between physicians, including those who are leaving, those continuing to work in pain management and family doctors.

"I don't think that those patients should be abandoned," she said.

About the Author

Kayla Hounsell

Senior reporter

Kayla Hounsell is a network reporter with CBC News based in Halifax. She covers the Maritime provinces for CBC national news on television, radio and online. She welcomes story ideas at kayla.hounsell@cbc.ca.

now