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Family doctor shortage looms in Labrador West

Four family physicians are leaving Labrador West in the next few months, with only one hired so far as a replacement. Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown says it's time for the province to step in. - FILE PHOTO
Four family physicians are leaving Labrador West in the next few months, with only one hired so far as a replacement. Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown says it's time for the province to step in. - FILE PHOTO

Half of the family physicians in Labrador West will move on to other towns in the next few months and that has a number of people worried.

There are eight doctors that service the twin towns of Labrador City and Wabush, and four have announced they are moving.

Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown said retaining family doctors has always been an issue in the region and, in varying degrees, all areas of the province.

One of the things that concerns him about this, he said, is that none of the doctors have been there more than a few years.

“This is worrisome. It shows the glaring face of retention, of lack of retention, of family doctors in the province,” Brown said. “Recruitment and retention of family physicians is an ongoing battle right across the province.”

Losing family doctors has a big impact he said, as those people now without a doctor have to go to the hospital for routine matters such as getting forms filled out or prescription renewals.

Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) told SaltWire Network it recognizes that losing the physicians causes concern for members of the community and is actively assisting in the recruitment of general practitioners for the region, with a new fee-for-service physician coming to the area in November.

“Labrador-Grenfell Health would like to reassure the public that the existing group of family physicians are committed to ensuring all prenatal patients continue to be cared for,” the health authority said in an emailed statement.

Not health authority issue: Brown

Brown said he’s sure Labrador-Grenfell Health is doing everything it can to recruit family doctors, but it’s an issue that needs to be looked at from the top down and can’t be downloaded to the regional health authorities.

“I know for a fact the health authority has done everything it can to recruit physicians, but now it’s time for the government and Department of Health to step up and say they’re going to have to recruit at a department level.”

The health authorities get all funding from the province, Brown said, and they can only offer what they are budgeted. He said the province needs to look at whether it is competitive with other provinces and countries and, if it isn’t, find out why.

“It’s not something they can pass off to the health authorities. They need to sit and take notice of what’s going on,” he said.

SaltWire Network contacted the Department of Health and Community Services about the issue and was referred back to Labrador-Grenfell Health.

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