When a nurse practitioner leaves, 4-hour trips for prescription refills follow – Nova Scotia

Tom Frook’s list of ailments includes limited dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pain from a broken back 15 years ago. But any time he needs something as basic as a prescription refill, the 68-year-old must prepare for a four-hour trip.

That’s because the “virtually brand new” medical clinic he used on Long Island, off Digby Neck, has been empty for weeks after the nurse practitioner who ran it relocated to Digby on the Nova Scotia mainland.

“There was a piece of paper hung in our little corner store,” Frook told CBC’s Information Morning. “The notice was also taped on the clinic door saying, basically, effective immediately, ‘You’re out of luck.'”

Frook is one of a number of residents of Long Island struggling to access primary care following the sudden departure of the nurse practitioner.

​He also sees a pain specialist in Kentville — a three-year-old referral from another physician — but said if he wants to access primary care, he has few options.

‘A four or five-hour trip’

To refill his prescriptions, for instance, he said he must call the Digby & Area Health Services Centre on Wednesday morning and attempt to book a same-day appointment with the nurse practitioner. If successful, he must then take the ferry to Digby, wait at the clinic for the refill, then get the medication at a local pharmacy and return home.

“That might only be a four or five-hour trip,” he said.

But if the Digby clinic can’t see him, the next option is the emergency room at Digby General Hospital, often a longer wait.

Frook said apart from some posts on social media by the area’s MLA, Liberal Gordon Wilson, there’s been no communication about the status of primary care on Long Island.

“There’s only local rumour and innuendo, and I don’t want to do that, but no, there was nothing from the health authority. Zero.”

Residents taken by surprise

Wilson said after the departure of the nurse practitioner was announced, he heard from several community members concerned about the news.

“I think it took a lot of islanders by surprise when it happened,” he said. “I received multiple calls on this, certainly the day that people found out.”

Wilson said there’s been meetings with stakeholders in the area for the past year and a half to determine how best to communicate information about primary care.

JoAnne Wentzell, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s director of primary health care in the western part of the province, said communication…

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