Nova Scotia

South Shore doctor shortage to be eased by new health centre

There are hopes in Bridgewater a new family health centre opening this month will help ease the acute doctor shortage in the South Shore community.

Leah Bennett says having a family doctor could have saved her a year of pain

There are hopes in Bridgewater a new family health centre opening this month will help ease the acute doctor shortage in the South Shore community.

Leah Bennett is one of thousands of people in the area without a family doctor.

"They say health care is free in Canada but you can't get it," Bennett told CBC news

"Wouldn't it be worthwhile to pay for our health care so we actually could have access?"

Bennett​ recently had a blood clot that required treatment with the drug warfarin. Warfarin is a commonly used blood thinner that can be dangerous if used incorrectly. 

At the same time this was happening, Bennett suffered a gallbladder illness. Doctors told her it couldn't be removed until she got off warfarin.

Bennett said she kept getting put off at the local emergency room.

"Every time I went in for my tests and everything they said, 'Your blood work is fine,' and I'd say what about coming off [warfarin]. They said we'll try you next time. We'll try you next time and I had a different doctor every time so I never had the opportunity to come off the warfarin," she said.

Not only was she in pain because of her gallbladder, Bennett was still on warfarin. Too much warfarin can lead to bleeding, too little can lead to clots, and either one can kill. 

She finally stopped taking warfarin after her prescription ran out.

Two weeks ago, an acute gallbladder attack forced her back to the emergency room where it was finally removed.

She said having a family doctor overseeing her care would have spared her a year of pain.

"They would have been able to monitor my warfarin and know that I was okay and taken me off of it and they would have been able to book me in for an appointment. Because I couldn't just go into the hospital and say, 'Hey, I need my gallbladder out,' but the doctor would have been able to do that for me," said Bennett.

The South Shore District Health Authority said steps are being taken to address the situation.

Later this month the new Bridgewater and Area Family Health Centre will open.

It will be staffed with three nurse practitioners and two family doctors.

A third doctor, Dr. Hamid Koupaei, has recently begun ramping up his practice accepting as many patients as he was able. The deadline for written requests was last Friday. Successful applicants will find out by Feb. 22.

The South Shore District Health Authority said several hundred people wrote letters.