Family doctor speaks out about system as he closes Summerside walk-in clinic for 2 weeks

·4 min read
'I consider myself fairly resilient, but I can see that it is a bit overwhelming,' said Dr. Syed Naqvi of Summerside, who has been working 14-hour days as well as weekends.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
'I consider myself fairly resilient, but I can see that it is a bit overwhelming,' said Dr. Syed Naqvi of Summerside, who has been working 14-hour days as well as weekends. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

This summer, Dr. Syed Naqvi is doing something many people on P.E.I. do: He's taking a vacation and closing down his business while he's gone.

But Naqvi is a family doctor, and his business includes the Summerside Family Clinic, the only walk-in clinic in the city that patients without their own doctor can use.

And since he couldn't find a doctor to replace him during his vacation, the clinic is closing for two weeks.

"My job is a full-complement family physician," Naqvi told CBC News on Friday. "I am doing above and beyond what my job is" by operating the walk-in clinic as well as his own practice.

Naqvi is a fee-for-service physician with about 3,000 patients, but on top of that he takes about 15 walk-in patients per day, on top of about 25 visits from his own patients.

"I am doing it for people who don't have [anywhere] to go," he said. "It's not a part of my contract to provide a walk-in clinic."

Opposition worries about access

Green Party of P.E.I. MLA Trish Altass said the thought of Summerside's only walk-in clinic closing worries her. She said people are stressed and facing long waits in emergency rooms, but don't have a choice.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

"We really need a more sustainable model than the current one … private clinic that is available," Altass said. "If that one doctor is not available for any period of time, there's absolutely no access."

Naqvi said he would welcome anything the Opposition can do to pressure the government into hiring more doctors, not to mention clinicians with international training.

In an emailed statement Friday, provincial officials said: "While Health P.E.I. does not manage this clinic, we recognize that lack of access to primary care is a serious concern … Increasing access to care is one of the main priorities of the health system."

Complaints about electronic medical records 

While talking about the problems currently facing P.E.I. family doctors, Naqvi blamed the province's new system of electronic medical records for slowing down treatment and making appointments more scarce.

"We were given a new software to go online," he said. "This software is slowing us down by two-and-a-half times. So if a person was seeing 50 patients a day, say, they are… down to 20."

He said he is still trying to see as many patients as he can, but it means a lot of overtime, and he is working up to 14 hours a day.

Weekends are for paperwork

For instance, he said that on Thursday he started working at 8 a.m. and his last patient left his office at 11 p.m. Before the new system, he was working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"And you still have to do the paperwork on the weekends," he added.

Naqvi strongly suggests Health P.E.I. hire assistants to help doctors, especially fee-for-service doctors, as they go about learning the time-consuming and detailed new system. Not only is he making less money, but his patients are losing patience with long wait times and fewer available appointments, he said.

He said he knows some doctors have given up and gone back to the old paper system. He also knows several doctors who have retired early or changed their careers — working out of a hospital instead of running their own clinic, for example — to avoid the new system.

Naqvi himself still makes a paper copy of his patient records as a backup because he worries the new system won't work.

We need support and understanding ... I think there has to be a strategy in place. We need resources. - Dr. Syed Naqvi

"It's a dilemma right now," he said, adding he worries about burning out if he doesn't get help. "But I'll appreciate if I can cut it down to decent hours.

"We need support and understanding … I think there has to be a strategy in place. We need resources."

Naqvi has lived and worked on P.E.I. since 2006 and has no intention of leaving his practice.

He is also a trained emergency room doctor and said the tools he learned managing those shifts have helped him avoid burnout.