Urologist shortage sees patients referred to Halifax

Some Newfoundland urology patients are being referred to doctors in Halifax for care, due to a shortage of specialists at Eastern Health.

The province’s largest health authority says it's down to just two of the surgeons, where there should be eight.

Family doctor Lydia Hatcher says that forces physicians and patients to make some tough choices.

"You are thinking, 'gee, is this going to turn into something that could be ominous like a cancer, or is it something that I can sit on?” Hatcher told CBC News.

“And we're often left making decisions that really are a little bit outside our scope of practice.”

The standard wait to treat something like a kidney stone used to be six months.

“Now, with Halifax, all bets are off because they've also got their own patient load there, and then they are taking our advice about when they can see them,” Hatcher said.

“So it's a significant wait for patients.”

Urologists perform elective surgeries like vasectomies. They also treat prostate cancer and urinary tract infections.

Eastern Health is asking family doctors to only refer emergencies or very urgent cases to a urologist.

The authority says it could take three years to get a full complement of eight urologists.

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