4,100 people will need new doctors as Halifax clinic announces it's closing this summer
Finding a new doctor isn't easy and now more than 4,100 people in the Halifax area will soon be looking for one. The four doctors who work at the South End Family Practice on Spring Garden Road will be closing their practice at the end of August.
"I regret and understand the stress this will cause for you," Dr. Maria Sampson wrote in a notice sent to her 937 patients. "The current state of health care in Nova Scotia and the lack of support for primary care providers has accelerated this closure."
Dr. Johanna Graham, Dr. Lianne Yoshida and Dr. Sarah Brydie are the other physicians who are stepping away from the clinic.
"Despite working with the Nova Scotia physician recruitment team for over a year, they have not secured a replacement physician to take over any of our patients," Sampson wrote.
Graham has the largest number of patients with 1,850. She graduated from medical school thirty years ago.
"The burden on family doctors is getting heavier and heavier and we are all pretty exhausted," Graham said in a phone interview between patient appointments. "More and more things are being dumped on family doctors because there aren't enough specialists to help."
Wait list at 133,000
As of February 1, 2023 just over 133,000 Nova Scotians are in need of a doctor. That equates to 13.5 per cent of the province's population. Nova Scotia experienced record-breaking population growth last year with 31,711 people moving to the province between July 2021 and July 2022.
"The issue is we have very finite resources," said Nova Scotia Minister of Health Michelle Thompson. "We need to make sure that we can sustain and improve access."
The clinic is located in Halifax and primarily serves people who live on the Halifax peninsula.
"People who don't have doctors are stressed," said Lisa Lachance, the NDP MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island. "Not having that ongoing relationship with someone who knows you and your family is difficult and it's a loss for our community."
Each of the four doctors will continue to work in the health sector, including Graham, who also works in the obstetrics department at the IWK where she has delivered close to 1,500 of her patients' babies.
They are encouraging their patients to plan ahead and book their final appointments by May or June as there will be very limited appointment availability in July and August. In many instances they will be able to write prescriptions that could provide a full year of medication.
"It breaks my heart to be telling my patients that I'm going to be leaving them without a doctor," said Graham. "I honestly don't feel good about it, it's pretty emotional to let these people go that I've known for so long."
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