The sad state of NL healthcare


Golden Master
About 2,000 people in central Newfoundland will get phone calls, beginning Monday, to learn they've won the lottery for a new family doctor at the Gander Medical Clinic.

The clinic began taking names in late May of people who wanted to become a patient of one of two new doctors, Dr. Amanda Scott and Dr. Celine Dawson, who are set to begin practising at the clinic over the summer.

There has long been a shortage of family physicians in Gander and the medical clinic held an event in 2007, when a new doctor arrived that year.

But instead of a phone-in lottery, patients were selected on a first-come, first-serve basis. The strategy created a public relations nightmare as people began lining up outside the clinic at 5 a.m. on the selection day. By the time the clinic opened its doors, the line of people stretched around the building and into the parking lot.

This time around, the clinic has accepted 4,000 names, by phone, that will be put through a computer lottery draw Monday. The draw will randomly select about half to be the lucky patients of the two new doctors.
More important than 6/49

Pat Feltham and her husband Sam, a retired couple who haven't had a family doctor in two years, and are hoping to be in the group that gets a phone call Monday.

Feltham said winning the doctor draw is more important to her than winning millions of dollars in the Atlantic Lottery.

"It would mean more to me than winning the 6/49, it's bigger to me than 6/49, that's how important it is," she told CBC News.

Feltham's husband has high blood pressure and diabetes, and without a family doctor to visit, he has to go to the emergency room at the local hospital every few months for a checkup and to renew his prescriptions.

Larry Dawson, manager of the Gander Medical Clinic, said his staff will starting calling the lucky patients Monday night. He said after the new doctors settle in, even more of the 4,000 names could be selected.

"There will be another 1,000 people accommodated before the process is finished, but that will take four, five or six months," Dawson said.

Dawson said recruiting doctors is crucial for the clinic, because thousands of patients will lose their general physicians over the next few years, as older doctors retire.