PORT AUX BASQUES – In April, the region was dealt a significant blow when it was announced that Dr. Tawfik Husni was retiring, effective Apr. 15, leaving numerous residents without a family doctor.
Unfortunately, the news has not improved.
Dr. Mothafar Mosawe, who has been a physician for Port Aux Basques and the surrounding area for the last 25 years, will be closing his medical practice, effective Aug. 31, leaving even more people around the Southwest coast with no access to a family physician.
Port aux Basques resident Ashley White said that even though she is lucky enough to still have a family doctor, the fallout from the lack of physicians in the area is easy to notice.
“I know my doctor was asked to take patients from Dr. Husni, so now he’s fitting in more people for him to see because they’ve got nobody, and appointments now are up to two weeks before you can get in. He’s backlogged for sure.”
White said the clinics are not the only ones feeling the increased pressure.
“The hospital is overrun so, even though I have a family doctor, for example, I will be waiting a lot longer in outpatients because they are having to pick up the slack too.”
White said she has at least five family members who, with the most recent clinic closure, will be without a family doctor.
“They have nobody. I’m seeing them struggle now to get somebody.”
Currently in the province there are over 125,000 people who are without a family doctor, putting unbelievable pressure on an already struggling healthcare system that faced significant difficulties even before the onset of the global pandemic. More than two years after COVID-19 first appeared in Newfoundland and Labrador, the healthcare system across the province has reached a critical state.
MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – LaPoile) said regardless of the exact number without a family physician, it represents a significant chunk of the population.
“Each situation is different. I’ll use Burgeo and Ramea for example. It’s been an ever-present issue in my ten years, this persistent worry over retention of healthcare individuals. Ramea is a community that used to have a physician, then went to a nurse practitioner, and it’s just something that comes with the times, a shrinking community, and the ability to keep a health professional. We are seeing it now more pervasive than we’ve ever seen it when it comes to Dr. Charles L. LeGrow and the number of physicians in the area but, if anything, I think it’s hard not to follow the news around the province and see how it’s affecting multiple other communities.”
Parsons said this is not an issue that the province is alone in facing.
“You only have to look next door to Nova Scotia. An election was decided on it. It’s a huge issue there. This is something that’s not a Newfoundland and Labrador phenomenon. It’s everywhere, but that doesn’t make it easier when you’re dealing with it, when it’s your constituency, your family and friends, and the professionals themselves.”
Parsons said the stress on the healthcare professionals that are working in this province is significant.
“It’s tough. You know the stress and strain that they’re under with the work that they do, and it’s not just physicians, you only have to talk to a nurse for a moment to understand the stresses they’re facing, even just to get a day off. From top to bottom in the healthcare system right now we are going through a crisis situation. Some days it feels like there is a thread there, and if we pull it, who knows where it goes.”
Parsons doesn’t believe there is a quick fix for the healthcare system.
“I don’t think for a second there is a silver bullet to this. It has been happening for years and multiple events have led us to this point where we are really facing it today. I know steps have been taken, five new seats added to MUN med, new positions created for recruitment, new bonuses and financial incentives created, but we’re competing with everybody for it and all I can hope is our minister, our department, and the NLMA and communities can figure out ways to work together.”
The MHA admits it’s frustrating because he wants to help, he wants to make things better, but it’s going to take time.
“I don’t think anybody has an exact fix and I don’t necessarily think this is just a money issue. If you get into the healthcare budget, it doesn’t shrink. It continually goes up and up, but it’s about how we fix this situation, so we aren’t losing these physicians. It’s a huge issue. There’s no way around it. When you don’t have access to a family physician, it’s extremely difficult. I don’t think for a second that it’s being ignored, but does that mean it’s going to get better right away? No. It’s not.”
On Jun. 15, the Department of Health and Community Services announced that Patient Connect NL is now available for registration for residents outside of Eastern Health without a primary care provider.
Patient Connect NL is a provincial list of individuals who have indicated they are without a family doctor or nurse practitioner in the province, and has a goal of connecting them to a primary care provider as soon as one becomes available.
The Department of Health and Community Services stated that the provincial government is continuing efforts to strengthen and re-imagine the healthcare system, which means attracting and retaining healthcare professionals as well as improving access to primary care.
The following steps have been taken thus far:
• Two new pilot projects to attract more medical graduates to family practice
• Expanded virtual care
• Creation of additional seats for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Studies and Licensed Practical Nursing programs
•Five new seats at Memorial University’s School of Medicine for students from the province
• An Office of Health Professional Recruitment and Retention, as well as an Assistant Deputy Minister position to lead this effort.
Register online at www.gov.nl.ca/hcs/patient-connect-nl, or call 1-833-913-4679.
Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News