N.S. man warns of people 'slipping through the cracks' after sick uncle waits weeks for care

·2 min read
The former Sydney Family Practice closed in November, but the province quietly opened a new primary care clinic in the same spot. Despite that, one Cape Breton man says access to medical care is difficult. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)
The former Sydney Family Practice closed in November, but the province quietly opened a new primary care clinic in the same spot. Despite that, one Cape Breton man says access to medical care is difficult. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)

A Cape Breton man is frustrated with the length of time it took a relative to get access to medical care in the community, saying his uncle was given conflicting information on where to seek treatment while suffering from pneumonia.

Bill Holm said his uncle called Nova Scotia's 811 health line after becoming seriously ill about six weeks ago.

Holm said the 59-year-old man described his symptoms and was told to go to the emergency department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, which he did.

Once there, Holm said his uncle was sent away to get a COVID-19 test.

When that came back negative, Holm said his uncle called 811 and was again advised to go to the emergency department.

The department, however, told him to go to a walk-in clinic.

Submitted by Bill Holm
Submitted by Bill Holm

It took a lot of phone calls, but Holm said he eventually got an appointment for his uncle at the new primary care clinic in Sydney on Dec. 29.

"They found out yes, he has pneumonia," Holm said. "He also has a heart condition and left untreated, he may have died from it."

He said his uncle is now on medication and is undergoing tests on his heart.

"Just through sheer tenacity and basically begging people to see this guy, we got something to happen, but so many more people are slipping through the cracks," Holm said.

Sydney's only remaining walk-in clinic closed in November, but the province quietly opened a new primary care clinic in its place.

Holm said despite that, access to medical care is a challenge. He said it is harmful, especially for people like his uncle who need serious medical attention.

"It's heart-wrenching and it's scary, and for him, he's scared and he's really sick and nobody would take the time and actually do anything," Holm said.

Virtual care coming: NS Health

More than 81,000 Nova Scotians were without a family doctor as of Nov. 1, including nearly 10,000 in the Eastern Zone, which includes Cape Breton Island.

No one from Nova Scotia Health was available for comment, but the province said in an email there are three primary care clinics in Cape Breton Regional Municipality, including the new one in Sydney.

There is also a new urgent care clinic in North Sydney and the province said virtual help will be available for anyone without a family doctor by the end of March.

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