After losing her family doctor earlier this year, Haley Flaro took to social media with her pitch to try to find a replacement.
“Wanted: family doctor. We are fun, compliant, perfect patients whose doctor did a midnight move to Ontario. We will commit to Christmas presents, cupcakes during visits & advocacy for your profession. We will be on time and bring a list of no more than 2 questions per visit,” she wrote.
In an interview with CTV Atlantic, she says she was trying to bring a little humour to a situation she — and many New Brunswickers — are facing.
“I know that’s not the best strategy, but my underlining theme is that there has to be ways to incentivize people to come and work in this amazing province to provide care,” she said. “I know there is a shortage throughout Canada but I’m really starting to see what our health system is facing in two, three, four or five years because of a loss of upstream medical care.”
Flaro sees it first-hand in her professional role too, working with people who have a mobility disability as executive director of Ability N.B.
According to the Department of Health, the Patient Connect list – those waiting to be matched with a primary care provider – sits at about 74,000 people.
That’s an increase of over 30,000 in a matter of months.
A spokesperson also confirmed that between April 1 and June 30, nine family physicians were hired. But in that same timeframe, ten left their practices.
“We are, however, strengthening the provincial recruitment approach; to increase our competitiveness with other provinces and countries,” said Shawn Berry in an emailed statement. “We recently increased our physician recruitment incentives to be more competitive with other jurisdictions.”
He also said that work is underway to move people from the waitlist to “N.B. Health Link” – a program promised last fall, that will move those on the wait list to a “network of family physicians and nurse practitioners.”
“These patients can be cared for through this network as they wait for placement with a permanent provider,” he said.
Recently, the department has been contacting those on the list in the Moncton region. People who have been on the waitlist the longest are being given priority.
The Canadian Medical Association says access to primary care is in crisis across the country.
“I think the urgency of the crisis in primary care really can’t be overstated,” said Dr. Katharine Smart in an interview last week. “Our health-care system is a system, meaning the problems in different areas impact others. When we can’t see good access to primary care, people turn up in other locations.”
She says that includes emergency departments, which have been under the microscope this summer after staffing shortages have forced health authorities to cut back on hours, or temporarily close emergency rooms, across the country.
For Flaro, she says the loss has already had an impact. A test her husband had been waiting for was in jeopardy because there was nowhere to send the results. Now, they’re turning to e-visits to fill the gap, but are hoping to be matched with a primary care physician or practitioner soon. She says they’re willing to travel.
“Our big concern is that we’re now in a system where we’re now no longer receiving preventative primary care that’s helping us on this continuum of good health. We’re almost in a position where you have to wait for something really terrible to happen to be able to get care,” she said. “Access to primary healthcare is about prevention. It’s about a relationship with your family doctor to be able to live a good quality of life and manage minor complications that could turn into major complications.”
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