During the 2021 provincial election, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association is calling on the political parties to commit to helping the 90,000 residents of the province who do not have a family doctor or a primary health care team.
“As the association representing all doctors in the province, we want to make all parties and their candidates aware of the pressing issues facing doctors and our patients. The most critical problem facing the health care system today is timely access to care,” said NLMA President Dr. Lynette Powell.
Dr. Powell explained that there are many regions of the province and specific types of care that are suffering from long wait times and bottlenecks. There are numerous examples.
Many of our hospitals, both rural and urban, suffer from a critical lack of internal medicine specialists. Elective surgeries are all too often cancelled, often at the last minute, leaving patients who have travelled long distances with a great financial expense. Our hospital beds are full to capacity while others must wait for care.
There are critical gaps in sub-specialty areas such as cardiac surgery and neurology. Many sites outside St John’s lack adequate cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, psychiatry and obstetrical services. Lack of these services means that patients must travel long distances to receive necessary care while wait lists grow ever longer.
“Sometimes the wait for care is a denial of care. About 90,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have no family doctor. We must do better for the patients of the province,” said Dr. Powell.
“We have the fastest aging population in the country and the highest rates of chronic disease. When these patients do not have access to timely care, they are at greater risk of poor health outcomes. For the thousands without a family doctor, they are forced to rely on emergency rooms for primary care, which is an inappropriate use of hospital resources. Others must rely on walk-in clinics and call-in services that offer no continuity or follow-up care. They deserve better.”
She explained that when a person has access to a family doctor and a primary health care team, they have access to comprehensive care for illness and disease; coordination of their medical needs; follow-up care after major surgeries or hospital stays; management of mental health needs; and access to a provider who knows medical history over the long-term.
“We need to focus on keeping people healthy at home and in their communities, while reducing unnecessary utilization of the acute care hospital system,” said Dr. Powell.
“Not only does this improve health outcomes for patients, it also leads to a more cost-effective health care system.”
Earlier today, the NLMA submitted a letter to the three party leaders asking them to outline how they plan to improve patient access.
The NLMA will publish responses from party leaders as they are received.
The NLMA has also launched a new ad campaign emphasizing the need to address the issue of the 90,000 patients in the province that do not have a family doctor.
To read the letter to the party leaders and to view the NLMA’s video, please click the links below.
Letter to Leadership Candidates: