N.S. woman says province needs to step in to fix Shannex doctor shortage

Mable Keyes is turning 85 next week and her family is concerned that if she becomes ill and needs medical attention, she'll lose her bed in a Debert, N.S., long-term care home.

Shannex has warned residents and families at two of its nursing homes that because they no longer have on-site primary care physician coverage, residents who don't have family doctors will be sent to hospital and they may not be readmitted. Sixty-one people living at Debert Court and at Victoria Way, a section of Cedarstone Enhanced Care in Truro, N.S., are affected.

Sandi Boon said putting Keyes, her grandmother, into long-term care in 2010 after she developed dementia was one of the most difficult decisions her family had to make. At the time, Keyes had a family doctor and the family was told the nursing home's doctor would take over her care.

Boon said Keyes has been treated by numerous doctors at the facility over the years.

"All of them have left," she said. "It's very concerning… Now we have to decide whether or not it's worth it if she has to go to hospital for an assessment, is she going to have a place to go to when she gets back?" she said.


Shannex has said it's not accepting new residents at the two facilities and the notice to families said people with a family doctor in the community may be accepted if the doctor continues caring for them.

In a statement to CBC News Tuesday, Shannex said in cases where residents without doctors do have to go to hospital for treatment, the home will be holding those residents' beds and reviewing each case individually to see if it would be safe for them to return to the facility.

"Case by case? That's not a definitive answer for me," said Boon, who is a licensed nurse practitioner. She said every day she goes to people's homes and has to tell them to go to an emergency department because they don't have a family doctor.

"Lots of times they end up coming home because they've sat there for 13 hours and haven't been looked at. It's terrible," she said. "The government needs to do something."

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Health Minister Randy Delorey said officials from his department and the Nova Scotia Health Authority met Wednesday and are working on solutions.

The two Shannex-owned facilties aren't the only ones running into problems. Ocean View Continuing Care Centre, which is an independent long-term care facility in Eastern Passage, N.S., has also said it's also struggling to ensure its 177 residents have medical care.

Delorey said the health authority is in the process of posting nurse practitioner positions to help fill the need while it's recruiting physicians.

The minister also said he has personally been in touch with the CEO of Shannex and there will be a meeting with physicians who work in the Truro area Thursday.


Officials are looking at "the full scope of health-care providers that we have access to: paramedicine, nurse practitioners, family physicians, that we can deploy to support these facilities that find themselves with family physician vacancies while they continue the recruitment efforts," Delorey said.

In the long-term, he said an additional six family practice medical residents should help provide coverage in the northern part of the province.

Boon, who lives about 70 kilometres from her grandmother's nursing home, said she'd be pleased if a nurse practitioner was hired to care for Keyes.

"These people need someone to take care of them. Anything," she said.