NLMA urges patients to take concerns to election candidates



    HALIFAX, Sept. 20 /CNW/ - The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical
Association (NLMA) today launched the second phase of its public information
campaign to highlight concerns shared by physicians and patients.
    NLMA President Dr. Joseph Tumilty launched the campaign during a
St. John's Rotary Club meeting on Thursday, September 20, 2007.
    The initial phase of the NLMA's campaign invited patients to share their
health care concerns with the Association. Public response clearly showed that
patients are most concerned about wait times and access to physicians.
    The new campaign highlights two key areas of concern - wait times and
access, and patient safety and quality assurance. The two advertisements will
run in the province's daily and community newspapers in the weeks leading up
to the provincial election.
    "Physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador are deeply concerned about their
patients and the ability of the province's health care system to meet their
needs. The new campaign will highlight our shared concerns about wait times
and access, and patient safety and quality assurance. We believe these issues
should be at the top of all political agendas during this provincial
election," said Dr. Tumilty.

    
                                 Backgrounder
    

    The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association has concluded the first
phase of a long-term campaign to encourage broad-based comment on a range of
priority issues for patients, their doctors and the province's health care
system.
    Public response to the campaign clearly shows that people in the province
are most concerned about wait times and access to physicians.
    Three advertisements appeared in the province's newspapers throughout the
month of June, highlighting such issues as access and wait times, care for
seniors, and child safety. The ads invited the public to call or visit the
NLMA website to learn more about each issue and to share their comments,
concerns and suggestions with the Association.
    "The campaign was our way of saying that physicians in Newfoundland and
Labrador are concerned about the same issues that concerns our patients," said
Dr. Joseph Tumilty, president of the NLMA.
    "We heard from people from all parts of the province - individuals and
community organizations - who were very supportive of the work the NLMA is
doing in these priority areas."
    More than 86 per cent of all public feedback was directly related to
concerns about wait times and access to physicians. In addition, the campaign
received scores of personal stories from patients about their encounters with
the province's health care system.
    Many highlighted the difficulty in getting a family physician. One mother
of five children, two with severe asthma, had this to say:
    "My children and I have been without a family doctor for five years and
we've been floating back and forth from clinic to emergency room. It's very
frustrating. There aren't enough family doctors in our area and we're
desperate. Is there anything you can do to help?"
    Others shared stories about long wait times for specialist consults, as
this caller attests:
    "I wanted to express my concerns over receiving an appointment with a
specialist. I'm having foot problems right now so my family doctor referred me
to a specialist in early June. I don't have an appointment until April 2008. I
feel that's a long time to have to wait for an appointment."
    The long wait times to access diagnostic procedures and treatment was
also raised as this caller points out:
    "I'm seeing a specialist for prostate problems and I have to wait two
more months before I can see the specialist again or even get a test done. My
condition is very serious so it's just a little bit outrageous that by the
time I do see a doctor it will probably have developed into cancer."
    Others commented on issues facing rural communities from the difficulty
accessing mental health services to the chronic shortage of family doctors.
The following exert is from a letter the NLMA received from a Glovertown
resident.
    "I am writing from a small town of about 2600 residents. The Glovertown
Clinic services the area with two staffed doctors and a nurse practitioner. If
I need an appointment for medicine refills or routine blood work I schedule it
weeks in advance. However, if I feel sick or something out of the ordinary
comes up, I have to go all the way to the ER in Gander, which is 40 minutes
away. It's near impossible to see a doctor on short notice and I am concerned
that the shortage of doctors is getting to be an epidemic. ERs are
overburdened and many patients there are not urgent ones."
    The NLMA will continue to bring these concerns and others to government
to remind decision makers that there is an urgent need to act today to ensure
the province's health care system is sustainable and meets the highest
standards of care possible.
    "Public response to the campaign will be considered as we shape our
advocacy plans with government on a go forward basis," said Dr. Tumilty.
    "This was only the first phase of a long-term campaign. We intend to
continue to raise awareness and highlight issues of concern in future phases
of our campaign."
    The print advertisements and more information on the campaign may be
viewed at www.nlma.nl.ca.




For further information:

For further information: Lynn Barter, ABC, Director, Communications and
Public Affairs Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, (709) 726-7424,
ext. 306, Cell: (709) 727-6153, lbarter@nlma.nl.ca; Note to editors: The Dr.
Tumilty's speech and the print advertisements are available online at
www.nlma.nl.ca.

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