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Bitter medicine

No family doctor means no more medical monitoring for existing conditions

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES – When faced with a serious health condition, having a family doctor is essential to keep oneself monitored and to avoid any serious complications. However, with so few doctors being left on the Southwest Coast, many patients are finding it difficult to do just that.

Wayne McNeil’s family doctor, Dr. Mosawe, is leaving at the end of August, and McNeil is now facing the grim reality that he isn’t going to be able to get the necessary weekly monitoring he needs to manage his medical condition.

“I was diagnosed three years ago with Afib, atrial fibrillation, and since that I’ve been on a blood thinner. The blood thinner they’ve got me on – one they’ve probably got 95 per cent of people on – is Warfarin and, because of the Warfarin, I’m required every week to go for blood work to check what they refer to as INR (International Normalized Ratio). That INR number that they are looking for all the time has to be between two and three. If you’re in between those two numbers in your blood, your blood is good for your condition,” explained McNeil.

Atrial fibrillation is a disease that is characterized by an irregular heartbeat, often faster, and it is extremely common, with more than 500,000 cases per year in Canada alone.

Urgent medical attention is recommended with severe cases, and an anticoagulant, like Warfarin, is often prescribed to prevent the formation of harmful blood clots. The INR test is a blood clotting test used to determine how long it takes an individual’s blood to clot.

When McNeil called to make his weekly appointments for the next few months, he was told he could only have appointments for the month of August.

“They didn’t give me any for September because I won’t have a doctor in September because Dr. Mosawe is leaving, and that leaves me in the lurch in regard to my medications, plus getting my INR chart read and kept up to snuff. They aren’t going to call me with my INR – although I think they should – they should call the patient and not to doctor, to let them know, because if the number isn’t up to two or above three, then at least the patient knows it’s out of whack and then they can do something about it, but they didn’t even leave me that option.”

Without weekly monitoring, McNeil said serious complications may occur.

“Most likely, when your INR levels aren’t right, you are subjected to either a heart attack or stroke without any warning. If my INR is out of whack and I don’t know it’s out of whack, I could have a stroke or heart attack and, in all probability, it would come from a clot that I may have gotten because I wasn’t taking the sufficient amount of Warfarin.”

When McNeil has an issue at night and after hours, he has to seek help at the LeGrow Medical Centre.

“I went to outpatients at four in the morning, and in outpatients after hours, that’s all locked up tighter than Fort Knox. I picked up the phone and someone was supposed to come and open the door and let me in, but nobody did, and I was in a bad way. I waited there for an hour, hour and a half, and I still didn’t get in. I ended up going back home with no treatment, no doctor, no nothing. I had to wait until 8:00 or 8:30, when they open the doors, to go back and, at that particular time, they kept me in for four days because everything had gotten out of whack on me.”

McNeil said there should be more options given to individuals without a family doctor instead of literally leaving them out in the cold.

“The option should be that, if they do my INR up there, it should go to the doctor on call at the time. They should be notified that they did blood work on a patient and his INR is below two or above three, and then they can call the patient and tell them what to do,” said McNeil. “So I’m never going to know what my INR levels are anymore.”

McNeil said he was given a link he could submit an e-mail to and get his name added to a list for a new family doctor, but there are already a great number of people on that list and it will likely take some time before he can find a new one.

“In the event that a doctor does come into the area, I don’t know if they’ll look at the importance of your issue before you go see the new doctor. I’m told there are thousands on that list, so the options for me to get a doctor here in my area to look after my issue now, is zero.”

McNeil said there are probably hundreds of other patients in the same boat, and the healthcare system is beyond broken.

“I guess you could say the government is just putting patches and bandages on it all by getting nurse practitioners and people in on it, but I don’t want a nurse practitioner looking after me. I’m not saying they aren’t capable, I’m just saying I want a doctor looking after me, and unfortunately on the last of August, I won’t have that option.”

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