Emotions ran high as more than 1,000 people packed the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion to address the dwindling number of doctors in Cape Breton.

 “This room represents a very small, tiny, a portion of the people who don't have a family doctor,” said one in attendance.

There are more than 10,000 people without a family doctor in Cape Breton, including Derek Bennett, who says he’s been searching for over a year.

“Extremely difficult. I'm at the mercy of the walk-in clinics … just to see a doctor," said Bennett. "It's rather frustrating.”

The rally was hosted by the Progressive Conservatives. Among those in attendance was geriatric psychiatrist Jeanne Ferguson, who sees the struggles first hand.

“The patients that come into my office cry,” said Ferguson. “I hate that. I hate seeing them cry for a family doctor I cannot give them.”

Ferguson says one of the problems with the healthcare system is the way it operates, no longer having local authority.

“All of our decisions are made in Halifax at the level of the executive branch of the health authority, so it's Mrs. Knox and the vice-presidents that make our decisions for us,” said Ferguson. “The problem with that is we're still running the farm back here, but they've taken the keys to the tractor.”

As many agreed with Ferguson and voiced their concerns, there was one commonality among those that attended.

“I’d like to know where in the heck is the minister of health,” said resident Joe MacKinnon. “This is only a health crisis. There's only 10,000 Cape Bretoners without a doctor.”

Tim Guest, the vice-president of the eastern zone for the health authority, was on hand to explain their plan to recruit doctors to Cape Breton.

“We have successfully recruited ten family doctors to the community here to start over the next year,” said Guest.

The provincial government announced on Friday a new collaborative practice that will accommodate 1,000 patients, which will open in the fall.

Nova Scotia Conservative MLA Alfie MacLeod is questioning the timing of that announcement.

“I'm not an expert on this, but what I do know. When Cape Bretoners are calling you about healthcare more than the roads, you know there's a big issue,” said MacLeod.  

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.