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Pediatrician recruitment for Yarmouth hospital a top priority says health authority

Krista Christie with her son Hunter, who has a form of leukemia. She says families like hers are impacted by the lack of pediatrician services in Yarmouth.
Krista Christie with her son Hunter, who has a form of leukemia. She says families like hers are impacted by the lack of pediatrician services in Yarmouth.

YARMOUTH, N.S. – Pediatric recruitment for the Yarmouth Regional Hospital is an urgent priority, but those tasked with the job admit recruitment has been difficult.

The hospital used to have two pediatricians, but one retired last summer and another relocated in December, leaving no pediatricians at the regional health centre.

“We are definitely worried about the status of the pediatric coverage in our western zone,”
says Dr. Cheryl Pugh, head of obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics for the western zone.

“We are working very, very closely with the IWK and others to try and maintain some support for the health-care providers who are there locally and we have been extensively recruiting,” Dr. Pugh says. “The shortage is absolutely an urgent priority for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.”

Some local families recently talked to the Tri-County Vanguard about the impact a lack of pediatricians is having on them. Krista Christie’s four-year-old son Hunter, for instance, has a form of leukemia. At times they’ve had to take ambulance trips to the IWK because they can’t get pediatric treatment for Hunter in Yarmouth.

The hospital used to have two pediatricians, but one retired last summer and another relocated in December, leaving no pediatricians at the regional health centre.

“We are definitely worried about the status of the pediatric coverage in our western zone,”
says Dr. Cheryl Pugh, head of obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics for the western zone.

“We are working very, very closely with the IWK and others to try and maintain some support for the health-care providers who are there locally and we have been extensively recruiting,” Dr. Pugh says. “The shortage is absolutely an urgent priority for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.”

Some local families recently talked to the Tri-County Vanguard about the impact a lack of pediatricians is having on them. Krista Christie’s four-year-old son Hunter, for instance, has a form of leukemia. At times they’ve had to take ambulance trips to the IWK because they can’t get pediatric treatment for Hunter in Yarmouth.

Dr. Pugh shares the concerns families have and says the health authority desperately wants to turn the situation around. She says recruitment is challenging as there are different reasons why people, including doctors, choose to live and work in different areas. That there are no pediatricians in Yarmouth further complicates things. She says people are often looking for an area where they can share the workload.

The health authority has a new recruitment coordinator for the province and Yarmouth has been flagged as a priority for pediatric services. The authority has been advertising in journals and on the province’s Health and Wellness website. The recruitment coordinator recently attended a recruiting event in Quebec. Word of mouth is being spread in residency programs across the country.

“One colleague may know of somebody who is graduating who may be interested in returning to the Maritimes,” Dr. Pugh says. “They have a home connection, oftentimes that will work in our favour.”

Yarmouth Regional Hospital

Dr. Pugh says in this country each year medical schools will produce a certain number of residents who graduate from a pediatric program. Some will choose to practise general pediatrics, which is the type of person they’re looking to recruit to Yarmouth. Some will go on to specialties such as oncology and hemotology. These people would tend to work in a larger care centre such as the IWK.

Asked whether in the interim there is a possibility for travelling clinics to this region to help fill the gap, Dr. Pugh says consideration is definitely on the table. She says they’re also exploring locum arrangements, whereby a pediatrician would come to the area to offer services for a period of time, even though they don’t have a practice in place.

“But we’ve not been successful,” she says of that effort.

The health authority doesn’t have current stats on how many patients and families are impacted by the lack of pediatricians at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. But it does want to assure people they’re working hard to find a solution.

“We share the parents’ concerns,” says Dr. Pugh, saying they want people to know they’re working hard on the problem. “When you don’t see results it’s difficult to convey the amount of energy that’s been put into this.”

 

 

 

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