PEI

Man waiting 7 years for family doctor says process needs change

A man who immigrated to P.E.I. is questioning if newcomers are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a family physician.

'I think we have a huge disadvantage compared to local people because we don't know anybody here'

There are more than 22,000 people on the patient registry waiting to be connected with a family doctor or nurse practitioner, though 404 people on the registry have a primary care provider and are requesting a new one. (kenchiro168/Shutterstock)

Anton Mizerin and his family have been on the Island's patient registry since coming to P.E.I. from Russia seven years ago. 

But now, he's raising questions as to whether or not immigrants are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a family physician. 

"Lots of our friends that came to the Island ... they're pretty much in the same situation," Mizerin said in an interview.

"There should be something, at least a single spot available." 

The province uses a patient registry to assign physicians — operating on a first come, first served basis. 

Mizerin said when he called the registry to change his address after moving from Stratford to Georgetown three ago he was told "you're at the top of the list." 

"Over three years and no single spot for a new patient? So it looks suspicious." 

'Huge disadvantage'

The struggle to secure a family doctor on P.E.I. is nothing new.

During the fall sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature even Premier Dennis King admitted that promising a physician for everyone on the registry was unrealistic. 

'It's really frustrating because we tried to get a doctor ... using different ways and that didn't happen,' says Anton Mizerin. (CBC News)

The wait-list currently sits at just over 22,000 people, though 404 have a primary care provider and are requesting a new one.

But there have been ways to bypass the line. Health P.E.I., for example, said there is nothing stopping Islanders from asking doctors directly to take them on as patients — something Mizerin said he has tried to no avail. 

"I think we have a huge disadvantage compared to local people because we don't know anybody here, nobody knows us," he said.

"If the doctor can decide who to accept, they probably will accept people from the community." 

'We want to use the registry'

But according to Health P.E.I., that situation is rare. 

"This scenario that's being discussed here, that's the prime reason why we want to use the registry," said Andrew MacDougall, the executive director of community health and senior care.

"We don't want to create multiple doors for people to be able to access our family physicians."

'We are undergoing a major primary care transformational initiative. And the registry is one of the many pieces that is currently under review in terms of how it's managed and how we assign people off of those,' says Andrew MacDougall, the executive director for community health and seniors care. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

For those currently on the list, MacDougall said it's crucial to ensure your contact information is up to date and remember there are alternative health-care options. 

"No one's been left out in the cold," he said. 

"It's important to know that they're not abandoned and important to know that there are services that are still available for them." 

'One prime channel'

While the province looks at alternatives like medical homes and neighbourhoods to revamp how Islanders interact with the health system, MacDougall maintained everything is trending in the right direction. 

Mizerin, on the other hand, said it's been frustrating and has no idea when or if his family will ever have a doctor of their own. 

"It's a great idea to have a registry. But at the same time, I think the registry should be the only way to get to a family doctor," he said. 

MacDougall agrees. 

"There should be one prime channel for people to be assigned off the registry. That gives us our best chance for equity and standardization of access." 

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