Lack of specialists delays life-saving cancer surgery for N.B. woman
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 7:51PM ADT
A New Brunswick woman is waiting for life saving surgery, and waiting to find the surgeon able to perform it.
Eileen Shaw received the diagnosis that she has cancer of the esophagus six weeks ago.Since then, she's been waiting for surgery that requires a thoracic surgeon to remove the tumour.
"You don't realize until it happens to you," says Shaw. "I thought within no more than two weeks I’d be in surgery, and have it removed. I thought it would be in Saint John."
Shaw says she was referred to surgeons in Saint John and Moncton, but they were unavailable.
"So we asked to be referred to Halifax. It turns out the one Halifax surgeon, out of five that was still accepting patients, was on vacation,” says Eileen’s daughter Britney Shaw. “The five surgeons collectively have said that they are too overwhelmed, and they have already absorbed enough New Brunswick patients and they're not taking anymore."
Eileen says she doesn't blame any of the doctors who have been unable to take her case, whether they are in Saint John, Moncton or Halifax. The Shaws call this a government problem.
The provincial government concedes there are physician shortages that need to be addressed.
"Obviously we're continuing to look at how we can recruit more,” says health minister Victor Boudreau. “There are vacant positions there that we can recruit, we're certainly looking at doing that, but for the time being, we have to work within the resources that we do have."
Boudreau says the three major hospitals and two health networks are working together to come up with short and medium term solutions to the problem.
The Shaws say they are not convinced.
"Everybody has a mom and you only get one. This is really a government problem. This isn't a doctor’s issue,” says BritneyShaw. “Doctors work diligently and selflessly long hours and they deserve breaks. They deserve to be on sick leave if they require it, and the province has really dropped the ball."
"They should have been ready for a crisis, and they're not," adds EileenShaw.
The Shaws say they've been told that there may be a surgeon in Moncton who will take the case. Before that, EileenShaw will have to undergo an additional scan. That doctor will then triage her case with other patients heor she is caring for.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron