Nova Scotia

Doctors dig into own pockets to keep Sydney walk-in clinic open

Doctors at the main walk-in clinic in Sydney, N.S., are paying out of their own pockets to cover the overhead expenses after other doctors left and the province failed to provide any help.

They're paying extra to cover overhead after other doctors left and province failed to provide help

Dr. Reggie Sebastian says he and two other doctors had no choice but to absorb extra overhead costs to keep the main walk-in clinic open in Sydney, N.S. (Submitted by Dr. Reggie Sebastian)

The doctors who operate the main walk-in clinic in Sydney, N.S., are digging into their own pockets to keep the clinic up and running.

Last month, the former Sydney Family Practice on Kings Road was in danger of closing after it lost half of its doctors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three remaining doctors said they couldn't afford to carry the overhead costs of rent, staff and supplies on their own.

After they appealed for help, the landlord and the province agreed to talk about options.

But Dr. Reggie Sebastian, a specialist at the regional hospital, now says no help came, so the doctors will simply have to absorb the extra costs.

"It's a very essential service for people who don't have a family doctor and we can't turn [our] back on them," he said.

Sebastian says the former Sydney Family Practice on Kings Road will only stay open as long as he has at least two other doctors to cover the overhead costs. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

Sebastian couldn't say if that would be sustainable, calling it a "fragile" situation, because the other two doctors are older and semi-retired.

"It is unpredictable, because as long as I have the other two doctors working along with me, we can keep this place going to help the people," Sebastian said.

He said patients have expressed relief that the part-time clinic will not be closing anytime soon.

"We are opening as much as we can and keep this service going and they know we are there for them when they need us," Sebastian said.

He said he has tried unsuccessfully to recruit other doctors for the clinic or to find less expensive space.

The building's owner, Dr. Mohsen Yavari, did not return a phone call from CBC News.

Nova Scotia's health authority said last month it hoped to find a long-term solution.

Province 'continues to explore solutions'

In an email on Friday, it would not say why no help is being provided to the clinic.

"A number of private physician offices/clinics and collaborative family practices provide valuable access to health care across the province, including the Sydney walk-in clinic," the province said.

"Nova Scotia Health was involved in conversations with the physicians from the private Sydney walk-in clinic and it is our understanding the clinic will remain open. You would have to reach out to the physicians for the most up-to-date information.

"Nova Scotia Health continues to explore solutions that will allow people in the community to access the care they require at Nova Scotia Health's primary care clinic in Sydney."

Nearly 8,000 people looking for doctor in CBRM

According to the province's latest report, the eastern zone saw the highest percentage jump in patients looking for a family doctor last month. Most of those are in Cape Breton.

It said more than 8,800 are looking for a family doctor and in Cape Breton Regional Municipality alone, the total was 7,780.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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