N.B. health officials deny doctor shortage has caused a crisis
Published Friday, March 17, 2017 7:29PM ADT
Health officials say the doctor shortage in New Brunswick isn’t at crisis level, particularly in the southern pocket of the province.
"I'm calling this a difficult situation. A situation that needs to be managed," said Dr. Edouard Hendriks, vice-president of Horizon Health.
The only thoracic surgeon in the Saint John area has been off work for two weeks and it's unclear when he'll return. Thoracic surgeons operate on the chest area including surgery for cancers of the lung and esophagus.
Horizon Health says surgeries will not be delayed.
"At this point in time, we have set up some measures to refer patients that are in need of surgery to other surgeons in the province and also outside the province if need be, so they can have access in due time to the services they need," said Dr. Hendriks.
Cancer patient Eileen Shaw told CTV News Tuesday that she contacted multiple surgeons in New Brunswick, but they were not taking on additional cases.
On Friday, Shaw’s daughter Britney Shaw says her mom has since been referred to a surgeon in Moncton who has ordered additional tests. She is also being cared for by the oncology department at the Saint John Regional.
"It's a complete 180 for sure,” said Britney Shaw. “It's definitely what we were looking for and we're thankful to be back on the rails and hoping to stay that way."
Dr. Hendriks says officials are trying to determine whether there is enough volume of work to justify having two full-time thoracic surgeons in Saint John.
But he cautions that recruiting thoracic surgeons is difficult, as there are few in Canada and fewer willing to move.
"I don't know why there are so many vacancies, why doctors aren't moving to New Brunswick.But it's definitely not something that citizens should have to work out on their own," said Shaw.
The Shaw family says they’re a little more confident that, at least in the past few days, some doors have opened for them.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.