From The Gazette


Waits for family docs stretch on for 8 years

  • Hundreds lined up at St-Lazare clinic on Ste. Angelique on Feb. 6, 2012 to get a spot with a new doctor coming to town.
    Hundreds lined up at St-Lazare clinic on Ste. Angelique on Feb. 6, 2012 to get a spot with a new doctor coming to town.
    Photo credit: Brenda O'Farrell/ The Gazette

Pope John Paul II had just died, Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, Destiny’s Child was on the charts, and Brokeback Mountain and Star Wars III, Revenge of the Sith, were in theatres.

The year 2005 was also the same year that Fenia Ambeliotis and her husband Anthony Pietraroia moved to Vaudreuil-Dorion and inscribed their names onto a waiting list for a family doctor.

Now, nearly eight years later, Ambeliotis and her husband are still waiting.

“I had been going to a doctor who was my parents’ doctor in Côte-des-Neiges, but living in Vaudreuil made that very difficult,” Ambeliotis said.

Ambeliotis and Pietraroia are not alone; they join about 5,000 people from the region on the waiting list, according to Sophie Boucher, a spokesperson for the Centre de santé et services sociaux for the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region.

Boucher said that number could be inflated because many people may move out of the region without giving notice.

Statistics show the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region has the third most acute shortage of family doctors in the province. In 2009, when the population was at 117,000, there was one GP for every 2,660 residents in the region, compared with one GP for every 1,842 residents provincewide. Now, the population is 140,000, and it seems no new doctors have moved in to help alleviate the situation.

Ambeliotis says she continually calls the CSSS and gets calls every few months so the health authority can keep her file up to date. However, at this point, she feels it’s all just a formality.

“I think I’m sorta just doing it because I’ve been told to do it. I don’t see it getting me anywhere in the future unless something dramatic changes with the health-care system,” Ambeliotis said.

Ambeliotis also occasionally calls either local clinics or ones fairly close by in the West Island to see if there are any openings.

The problem, however, is that if new doctors open up a practice, there is no requirement for them to prioritize patients on the waiting list.

That’s just what happened last year when Stephen Harrison moved his family practice from Île-Perrot to St-Lazare. He decided to take 800 new patients, but only took 300 from the waiting list. The other 500 were taken from hundreds who stood in a line outside when the clinic opened.

Not everyone has to wait as long as Ambeliotis. Boucher said those with chronic conditions or illnesses that require continual monitoring, like diabetes, are given priority over those in perfect health.

Some new family doctors will be coming to the region in 2014 when the CSSS has promised its new ambulatory-care clinic will open on De La Gare Blvd. in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

Several new general practitioners are planned, as well as pediatricians, gynecologists, and others, but the CSSS has not yet made the number of doctors public.

When news of the new doctors broke in the Off-Island Gazette a few weeks ago, readers wrote in to ask whether they could get onto a waiting list for the new doctors.

Boucher said there is only a waiting list for family doctors. And those who wish to get on it must come in to the CLSC in Vaudreuil-Dorion, at 490 Harwood Blvd.

Boucher said while people can get onto the waiting list for family doctors, there are no lists for pediatricians or other specialists.

With a total of only four pediatricians in an area with one of the highest birthrates in the province, new doctors who arrive in the region are sure to have a full patient load as soon as they open an office.

Ambeliotis, who has travelled to the Hawkesbury hospital in Ontario three times for her son, said she would consider finding a family doctor in the neighbouring province as well.

“But it’s unacceptable that we can’t get good care in this province,” she said. “It used to be that people would travel for miles to get health care here. Now, we’re leaving the province to get adequate care.”
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  1. By Judy B.

    This is crazy! I am 68 years old. I have Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol arthritis, psoriasis and many other problems. I use a walker to go anywhere and a cane if someone takes me somewhere. I have very stiff legs and balance problems making it difficult to walk. My name is on a list at the Vaudreuil-Dorion CLSC but they say that even though I am a priority, I will wait a very long time. Am I to die before that? My doctors that I had in Montreal (before I moved here) have retired. I had a Family Dr., a Diabetic Dr., a Dermatologist, and a Rheumatologist, as well as an Opthamologist and now I have no doctor at all. My prescriptions had been updated by my old Diabetic Dr. but now I need them renewed and don’t know how to get that done. I have gone to 2 clinics in the area and they say they are for immediate emergencies and that I badly need a Doctor but although the CLSC has me on a list, I need a doctor NOW!

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