Depending on who you ask, there is or there isn’t a problem in Nova Scotia. The term health care would seem to be straight forward. And yet it is a complex and profoundly inspired area, and it needs to be tended to, continuously and courageously, by governments who instead continuously and consistently try to find ways to cut corners.
The NS Liberal Government would have you believe, everything is working as it should. In spite of the statistics, in spite of the very public debates, in spite of the doctors speaking out, in spite of the media coverage of the issues and in spite of the human beings impacted by the situation we are in. Who would you believe?
This morning on a call-in radio show, an elderly gentleman said, he feels the government is using his health as a means to save money. The radio host tried to say he felt the government cares, but the caller was certain he was right. How would you, or do you feel, if you have no family physician?
During the last election in this province, one of the numerous contentious issues was the health care system. Our main hospital in NS is falling down, we have ER’s closing all over the province, Walk-in clinics are closing, doctors are leaving. Over 100,000 people are without a family physician. During the elections, I came to know Lisa Bond. She was running for MLA in the riding of Victoria – The Lakes. While there were a number of reasons, the current health care situation was a major factor in her decision to run. Her family was impacted drastically by the doctor shortage. Her family needs a family physician. Lisa wrote a very heartfelt article for this blog a few weeks ago…
Their family doctor, a well liked and local doctor, Bernie MacIntosh, was forced out of the province by the government. He had been Lisa’s family doctor until his own health required he take time for himself. After he returned to the field, he operated a walk-in clinic, since the local ER began closing every day at 3pm, in an effort to offset the distances to the next closest ERs. As well, with the numbers of closures, 20 hour wait times in an ER have been reported. Some people leave the ER without having seen a physician, as the close time preceded the patient’s number being called. The clinic was a welcome addition, but the Health Authority didn’t like it and it was a constant battle that interfered in the clinic’s performance. When Dr. MacIntosh gave up fighting the government to keep his clinic open, Lisa and her children were without a family physician.
Lisa was treated for pre-cancerous cells (cervical polyps) and requires regular follow-ups, but has no specialist physician, since her specialist, Dr. Delahanty, left Nova Scotia. Lisa hasn’t had a follow-up in about three years. Without a family doctor, she is unable to get a referral to see another specialist, and Lisa has been experiencing symptoms that cause her immense concern. She is the mother to two young boys. Both have a number of needs, and that alone would be troubling enough to anyone without a family doctor, as would her own health concerns, but the combination of issues could have devastating impacts on her children’s futures.
Her oldest child requires a prescribed narcotic, Vyvanse, for ADHD and Turrettes Syndrome, and she is currently running down the clock on when his current writ will run out. She has to curtail his dosages to try to make them last longer, and is spacing them out in an effort to do so, and thus, she tells me, she has to connect herself to his hip every day to monitor his behaviour. He also requires ongoing surgeries for a dental condition, but has no doctor for follow ups after dental surgery. Her son has no child psychologist and it has been 2 years since he has been assessed or referred for one.
Her youngest boy, was born at 25 weeks, and has several typical ongoing conditions found in children born prematurely. His bowels were underdeveloped, his jaw was underdeveloped, he has autism. He also has a condition that does not allow him to process pain like the rest of us. Lisa told me he could be suffering from a ruptured appendix before the pain would register in a way he could communicate to her that he is in trouble. In a trauma situation, with all of the ERs closing after hours, such urgency in any serious health situation for this little boy, could be minutes from a life or death situation. Lisa told me they waited for 8 hours for her little boy to get stitches for a dog bite.
Lisa will tell you, she and her boys are only a sample of so many stories around Cape Breton. And Nova Scotia. The province has the highest rates of varied issues, from an aging population, to cancers and obesity, to mental health concerns. The wait times for a specialist can be critical. People are dying in the hallways, waiting to see an ER doctor. And Lisa, during her campaign heard from people in her area, who have little hope as to how things can get better. The added burden of health concerns on any family, with a doctor, can lead to heartbreak, let alone without any primary care at all. The NS Liberals continue to claim, there is no crisis.
Doctors are being denied the ability to practice here, for any varied reasons. Too many clinics in one area (even though there is a list of patients waiting for a doctor). One doctor was fired after it was found he had omitted an irrelevant practical experience that made him over qualified for the job. All professionals leave out aspects of their experience where they are deemed to be irrelevant to a particular job And this doctor was not looking for more money due to his experience. It certainly wasn’t an inhibitor to him doing the job he was hired to do. One neurosurgeon cannot get a license to practice here because he studied in France, med school graduates are being denied licenses to practice here even though they studied here. And doctors who are here are becoming tired of the crisis and the roadblocks to a solution. They are leaving the province in utter frustration.
What is the solution? I don’t know, but the doctors, the experts in the problems, have put forth plans, ideas, offered insight. This government is not listening. And they are not willing to admit that they do not know either. They have not listened to anyone, in any of the major catastrophes they have inflicted on the people of this province. This situation is the worst. And we cannot continue to ignore the problem, whether it is to save money or to avoid the whole truth. Our government owes the people of this province proper health care.
Meanwhile, Lisa is still living with the stress of not knowing when and how she will get the required prescription for her son before she runs out completely. How and when she will see another specialist herself? My prayers and thoughts are with her, her boys, and all the families in this terrifying and hopeless situation.