'It's starting to scare me': N.S. man with chronic pain fighting for family doctor
A Nova Scotia man says the family doctor shortage in the province is ruining his quality of life and he’s worried he’s falling through the cracks.
Alexander MacMillan has been living with chronic pain for years and no one seems to know why. To make matters worse, MacMillan says he has been without a family doctor since February.
“I have gone through every avenue you could possibly think of to try and get a family doctor,” says the Stellarton, N.S. resident. “I’ve lost my job of 16 years. I’ve lost any income.”
MacMillan is being treated for chronic pain, but says his options are limited without a family doctor. He can go to the emergency room or a walk-in clinic for pain medication, but says there is no one to order tests and follow up.
“It’s starting to scare me because it’s getting worse,” he says.
It’s also hard on his family. His son, Zachary MacMillan, says the treatment he sees his father receive at the emergency room is unfair.
“They look at his medication history and they assume that everything that he says is being said for a nefarious purpose, or that it’s not genuine,” says Zachary. “It’s extremely difficult to sort of witness and be a part of.”
MacMillan is one of thousands of Nova Scotians without a family doctor and the problem is growing.
According to Doctors Nova Scotia, the province will need to hire an estimated 1,300 doctors in the next 10 to 12 years to meet the demand.
The provincial government is working on a recruitment strategy, but says it has had issues recruiting to some communities.
“It is of great concern and that is why we will have both a short-term and long-term plan as well,” says Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine.
Glavine says the government’s short-term physician recruitment plan will be released in the fall.
But Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn says MacMillan’s story is all too familiar.
“It’s a classic example of another Nova Scotian falling through the cracks of our health-care system,” says Dunn.
Meanwhile, MacMillan says he’s running out of options. He has been told it will be difficult to find a doctor willing to take him on, due to his medical history.
“Medication is fine, but I’d like to know what the root of the problem is.”
He hopes the government is also looking into the root cause of the doctor shortage.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie