A New Brunswick man who recently moved from Ontario says he was shocked by how difficult getting emergency treatment can be, after he was told he would have to wait up to 18 hours to be seen at a hospital ER.
Now Greg Simpson wants to warn others of the potential wait for primary care in New Brunswick, and hopes officials address it before potential newcomers get discouraged from making the move.
"We've never really had any major medical issues, so we've never experienced a lot of problems obtaining medical services. So this has been quite a shock," Simpson said.
Simpson, 65, and his wife, Darlene, 66, moved from Cambridge, Ont. to Keswick Ridge — just northwest of Fredericton — last November in search of a slower pace of life and affordable housing.
Last Wednesday, Simpson was working on the roof of his garden shed, when the ladder he was standing on slipped from under his feet, causing him to slam his torso on it as he landed.
"It was extreme pain — muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, everything that sort of goes with having either bruised or cracked or broken ribs," said Simpson, who's currently on the waiting list for a family doctor.
"I still don't know what the actual issue is."
He tried treating the injury himself with compression wraps and ibuprofen, but the pain was too much, and by 3 a.m. Thursday morning, he went to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in search of care.
That first visit lasted three-and-a-half hours, with Simpson deciding to return at a better time.
He showed up again on Sunday, waited about eight hours, and gave up again after a nurse told him and other patients to expect to be waiting another 10 hours before being seen.
"She just happened to walk out in a rush and just made an off-the-cuff remark saying 'You people should go home because it's going to be another 10 hours'.
"I just thought, you know, I'm going home, so I think I waited around for another hour or so just in case the triage nurse actually fulfilled her words — saying that I might get in early due to my injuries — but that didn't happen, so I just went home."
Horizon Health Network, which operates the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, did not respond to questions before deadline.
Simpson's experience comes as hospitals in New Brunswick have warned patients to avoid their ER if their case is not urgent, due to higher than normal volumes. Others, meanwhile, have had to close their ER operations at certain times due to staffing shortages.
The province has said it's working to fill gaps in access to primary health-care by filling vacant nurse practitioner positions, amid cries over the wait time to find a family doctor or nurse practitioner.
Despite the experience, Simpson said he doesn't regret moving to New Brunswick, but worries that the difficulty accessing medical care could hold the province back from attracting more people.
"And it's just shameful too that this is the provincial capital," Simpson said.
"This is their main hospital, and this is the best that they have to offer. It's kind of shameful for the people of this province and certainly this city and area."
Simpson said he has turned to eVisit NB, a platform that lets patients book virtual appointments with New Brunswick-based physicians, nurse practitioners and mental health therapists for a fee.
He's hoping a nurse practitioner can give him a referral to get an X-ray done so he can find out if any of his ribs are broken.