Bernadette Landry recently lost her family doctor, someone she had been seeing for years.
So, she says it doesn’t surprise her to hear the wait list for a primary care practitioner has grown by the thousands so far this year.
New Brunswick’s Department of Health says the list sits at about 74,000 people.
“You have to wonder sometimes, why doctors decide to leave?” she said. “Their working conditions are not always ideal, that is for sure. It’s like all health-care workers, they’re all being stretched out to the limit.”
As chair of the New Brunswick Health Coalition, she says many seniors — like her — are concerned about the move to e-visits, stressing it’s not the same as expressing health concerns in person, and building trust with a single practitioner.
In a statement Monday, the department said it has recruited nine family physicians, but in the same time frame, lost 10. They’re promising more emphasis on recruitment incentives, aiming to be more competitive with other provinces and countries.
It’s also working on rolling out its new New Brunswick Health Link, which promises to remove people from the waitlist and connect them with a practitioner when they need one until a permanent replacement is found.
Work is underway on the program, which is currently focused on the Moncton region.
The New Brunswick Medical Society called the growing list “disheartening.”
“While efforts are underway to recruit new physicians to the province, we also need to work harder to ensure current New Brunswick physicians are being supported and appreciated in order to strengthen retention,” said president Dr. Mark MacMillan in a statement.
“In the meantime, we are hopeful that the New Brunswick Health Link will help facilitate access to care for those patients without a family physician and we look forward to the results of its initial rollout in the Moncton area.”
Nova Scotia isn’t immune.
According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, 105,187 Nova Scotians are on the Need a Family Practice Registry as of Aug. 1 — up from 100,592 on July 1.
It’s an increase of 30,000 people in less than a year.
“That’s the biggest jump I’ve seen in a year since I’ve been elected for 12 years,” said Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill.
The top reasons as to why range from population growth, to doctors leaving or retiring.
The August report states that 37.6 per cent of people said they wanted to be added to the registry because they were new to an area, and 24.7 per cent reported their provider had moved or closed their practice.
“There’s another half of those folks who are leaving the profession for other reasons and a big thing we’re hearing is, they’re exhausted. They’re dealing with wave after wave of COVID-19 and it’s putting so much pressure on them and their colleagues that it’s tapping people out,” Churchill said.
Prince Edward Island’s wait list sits at 25,261, as of Aug. 8. Of those, 383 have a primary care provider but are requesting a new one.