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'My illness worked in my favour, it got me the doctor I needed' Digby man finds new doctor with the help of 811 waitlist

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DIGBY, NS- Joshua Gavel moved to Digby County two years ago and he knew finding a family doctor wasn’t going to be easy.

He has COPD, asthma, diabetes, underwent a triple bypass surgery in 2015 and had a pacemaker installed in 2005.

For Gavel, being close to medical care is important.

“I mean I’m doing fine right now, but if something went wrong and I had a complication, that’s what worries me.”

A year and a half ago he found Dr. Marek Bander, who made it clear before taking Gavel on as a patient, that he was soon going to retire.

“It was my only choice at the time, so I took it,” Gavel said.

Dr. Bander retired on April 1, leaving Gavel worried about finding another doctor.

Anyone in Nova Scotia can call 811 and be added to a wait list for family doctors, through the Nova Scotia Health Authority program: Need a Family Practice. 

Knowing of Bander’s upcoming retirement, last June Gavel registered on the 811 wait list, hoping to find a new doctor.

On April 20, he got a call saying a doctor was going to take him on as a patient.

Gavel requires regular monitoring for blood thinning and coagulation, so it was a priortiy to be able to find a doctor quickly. 

“My illness worked in my favor, it got me the doctor I needed,” he said.

Unless someone registers on the 811 wait list, the Nova Scotia Health Authority isn’t aware who is looking for a doctor.

“We’re trying to get a better handle on the numbers, so if we can encourage people to call 811 and register, that would help us know who is in need,” said Fraser Mooney, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s public engagement and communications officer for Digby, Yarmouth and Shelburne.

Fraser Mooney, Nova Scotia Health Authority. -File photo
Fraser Mooney, Nova Scotia Health Authority. -File photo

Nova Scotia Health Authority is aware of Bander’s retirement and they have been searching for a replacement.

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“We’ve been recruiting for a replacement for Dr. Bander for quite some time,” said Mooney. There is a job posting on the Nova Scotia Health Authority website and they have received some interest in the position.

The local stakeholder group and recruiters met before Christmas to discuss health care access in Digby County.

“It’s something were working on together with the local community.”

The Digby Collaborative Health Care practice is looking to expand, to accommodate the number of residents without doctors and nurse practitioners.

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The positive changes coming to the Digby area, including the new dialysis clinic, should help attract potential doctors, Mooney said.

Although, the challenges Digby County is facing with recruiting doctors, isn’t just happening in rural communities.

“The challenges were having aren’t just in rural areas anymore, there are challenges in areas like Halifax too.”

Digby does have its advantages for recruiting doctors as well.

When potential doctors come to see the town, members of the stakeholder group and town employees welcome them to the area, he said.

“The eager and enthusiastic effort from the community certainly helps.”

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