St. John's family waiting months for N.L. collaborative clinic after losing family doctor

·4 min read
Members of the Hickey family have been without a family doctor, or access to primary care, since early January 2022. (Submitted by Amelia Hickey - image credit)
Members of the Hickey family have been without a family doctor, or access to primary care, since early January 2022. (Submitted by Amelia Hickey - image credit)

A St. John's woman says despite trying for months, her family hasn't been able to get medical care at Collaborative Team Clinic since losing their family doctor in January.

Amelia Hickey says her family doctor took a job with Eastern Health to work at one of its collaborative team clinics and the doctor they found to replace them didn't take her family members on as patients.

"Unfortunately our old family doctor was only able to find a doctor to take half their patients. They held a random draw to be fair and unfortunately no one in my family was selected. So we are currently without a doctor," she said.

'We're all in a situation where we just don't feel like we have access to adequate health care.' - Amelia Hickey

Hickey contacted the Collaborative Team Clinic by email to register with it and received an email confirming it received hers but nothing else since then.

"I know Minister Haggie said these clinics are not full but, if they are not full, why is it that I've been waiting four months to be even contacted?" she said.

Hickey, her husband, and their one-year-old child have been registered with the clinic since Jan. 25, she said.

On April 20, Health Minister John Haggie told CBC News that the clinics will be able to "accommodate" patients who lost their family doctor.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

"We have capacity left at the CTCs that are opening in St. John's. There will be no difficulty accommodating, for example, the patients of the individual who hasn't been able to get anyone to take over their practice. So, we simply ask patients to register with Patient Connect N.L. so no one gets skipped," he said.

But that hasn't happened yet for Hickey or her family members. She says it means they're left with two options if they need medical care.

"We're all in a situation where we just don't feel like we have access to adequate health care at this point. I'll end up going to the emergency room and tying up that place for people who are actually having a medical emergency or I have to go to a walk-in clinic which is hard to coordinate when you are working full time. You have no idea how long you are going to wait at a walk-in clinic," she said.

Hickey recently called Eastern Health looking for an update.

"I called the CTC line last week, they couldn't tell me where I was on the waiting list. They told me they didn't have access to that information," she said.

Hickey contacted her MHA, her parents' MHA, and Minister Haggie. She said the MHAs haven't come up with a satisfactory solution yet and Haggie hasn't responded to her.

Eastern Health responds

Eastern Health says it can understand why Hickey is anxious but it's asking people like her to be patient.

"The fact that she's having to wait is likely due to the fact that those clinics just opened and we are working our way through the list of patients," said Melissa Coish, Eastern Health's regional director of primary care.

CBC
CBC

"We have been able to attach thousands of patients since December but we haven't been able to make our way though the whole list. So our benchmark now, from the time the clinic opens, is three months from the time that the clinic would have opened to when you can expect to hear from us."

'Stay patient and we'll get there.' - Melissa Coish

There are three CTCs in the St. John's area. One at 7 Pippy Place that opened in December 2021, one at 50 Mundy Pond Road that opened Feb 21 and one at 1144 Topsail Road that opened March 18.

Coish also said it's taking time to get all the patients into the new clinics because the those clinics are still actively recruiting.

"While we have a good solid complement of nurse practitioners and physicians, we are building on that every day, and so just stay patient and we'll get there," she said.

"We are absolutely hearing the public. Since December over 11,000 individuals have registered on Patient Connect N.L. It does take time. They are new clinics. They are exciting and it certainly is the way of the future, but we need time to work through those lists and get in contact with folks."

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