N.L. family worried lack of consistent doctors will put quadriplegic son at risk

·2 min read
Silone Fowler, who is quadriplegic, needs a doctor to change his catheter at least once every two months.  (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)
Silone Fowler, who is quadriplegic, needs a doctor to change his catheter at least once every two months. (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)
John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

Silone Fowler worries the doctor shortage across Newfoundland and Labrador could be life or death for him, particularly as he lives in a small community.

The L'Anse au Loup man was drinking and driving 20 years ago, when he crashed his vehicle and was paralyzed from the chest down.

He now has a catheter draining his bladder, but it needs to be replaced regularly so it doesn't become infected — and because of his specialized equipment, that requires a doctor.

So every two months Fowler goes to the Labrador South Health Centre in Forteau, about 15 kilometres away.

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

Sometimes, he has to go sooner if the tube gets blocked from sediment in his bladder. If it does, there's only minutes for it to be looked at or he's at high risk of a stroke or deadly heart attack.

"It's life or death if his tube blocks," said Dorman Fowler, Silone's father. "There should be somebody there to do the job, proper job."

The doctor he had been seeing told the family six months ago that he intended to leave at the end of June, and while Labrador-Grenfell Health is bringing in a replacement physician for a three-month placement, Fowler's family are concerned about what happens if the doctor doesn't stay.

"It's a mother's worst nightmare," said Dorcas Fowler, Silone's mother. "We shouldn't have this stress, not over something like that."

Labrador-Grenfell Health says physicians often do a trial period to ensure a good fit for both the individual and the community.

The family hopes the new provincial Health Minister Tom Osborne will hear their story and get more physicians into rural areas.

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

"Every area in the province got situations where a doctor is required … If they got to throw more money at it. Throw more money at it," Dorman said.

In March, the province announced a family practice start-up program that will provide $100,000 to the new family practice physicians who open up a clinic or join an existing one and stay in it for five years.

In the past month, the province also announced that doctors will be paid up to $800 a day more to work shifts in smaller rural emergency departments. It also launched a new campaign called Extraordinary Every Day to entice health-care workers to move to the province.

Silone is hopeful he can stay in the rural community, which has a population of just under 700.

"I'm only 42 and I want to see my niece and nephew grow up," Silone said. "I don't want anything to happen to me."

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

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