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Finding doctor a ‘losing battle’

Date: Friday, August 31, 2018

Moncton native Ron Gaudet has spent three years, 10 months and 23 days waiting for a phone call.

That’s how long the 50-year-old has been signed up with Patient Connect NB, which matches New Brunswickers with a primary care provider. The provincial registry includes 25,546 people.

“I am fairly healthy myself, but this has been going on now for almost four years,” said Gaudet.“I think it’s a losing battle.

“I don’t have the answers.  I don’t know what the solution is.”

Earlier this week, the Telegraph-Journal reported exclusive statistics, showing how long New Brunswickers have spent waiting for a provider.

Of the 25,000, roughly 4,700 – or one in five  – have waited more than two years. A total of 1,279 have waited more than three years.

Within another month or so, Gaudet will join roughly 359 others who have waited four years or more.

“I want that personal, one-on-one relationship,” said Gaudet, who is single with no children and describes himself as in good health.

But as he ages, he wants a dedicated medical professional to be able to access  prostate exams and other age-related testing.

The former professional hockey player returned to New Brunswick several years ago after two decades competing in Germany. A well-known face in hockey circles, Gaudet won the Allan Cup with the Saint John Vito’s in 1992. He continues to skate at a high level today.

Gaudet never imagined how difficult it would be to find someone to replace the family doctor he grew up with.

His search began within circles of family and friends when he returned in 2013. But after a year of fruitlessly asking if their doctors had any openings, he turned to Patient Connect.

Proof of registration and a confirmation number reviewed by the Telegraph-Journal shows Gaudet’s file was successfully submitted to the database 1,423 days ago on Oct. 7, 2014.

“I expected the processes in place would do their job,” he said.

He understands that individuals with small children or seniors with complex care issues should have priority on the wait list. While the database prioritizes urgent cases,  it otherwise operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Department of Health spokesperson Paul Bradley declined to comment on Gaudet’s wait time, saying the department doesn’t comment on specific cases.

As he awaits a doctor, Gaudet – like many others in his situation –  have turned to walk-in clinics and emergency rooms for care.

But those avenues have come with their own set of challenges.

Simply booking an appointment at a clinic can turn into an exercise in frustration, he said, because “if you don’t call at the right time, you won’t get in.”

Gaudet was told by a clinic receptionist to go to the emergency room a couple years ago when he needed an X-ray for his wrist.

On at least a couple of occasions, he has visited the emergency department only to leave after spending three hours waiting. At the time, he decided to leave his injuries untreated and “let nature take its course” instead.

Nurse practitioners are one solution to ensuring residents receive  primary care, said Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses’ Union.

She said nurse practitioners come with more advanced training than registered nurses, allowing them to diagnose and treat common illnesses as well as prescribe medications.

The nurses’ union, along with the Nurses Association of New Brunswick, is calling for political parties to pledge to create more jobs for these professionals.

Doucet said six nurse practitioners in the province are currently at risk of losing their licenses because they are unable to find enough hours of work by the end of 2018.

“If they had 500 patients each, that’s taking 3,000 people off the Patient Connect list right there,” she said, adding that  nurse practitioner positions cost less than a doctor position.

This week, Gaudet called Tele-Care 811 to check in on the status of his request for a doctor. After nearly four years of waiting, Gaudet said he was half-expecting to hear his name “got lost in the shuffle.”

It turns out this wasn’t the case. Gaudet said  the  employee confirmed his file was still active after verifying his address and medical history. Gaudet said he has placed no restrictions on his file, such as language or gender of provider, other than how far he would be willing to travel. He’s willing to drive up to 25 km for a provider.

“When we finished speaking, she thanked me for calling Patient Connect NB,” Gaudet said, letting out a small chuckle.

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