Doctor not arriving in town as originally anticipated

courier-community-news

St. George – Residents in the Town of St. George are wondering about the future of their health care after learning the town’s only family doctor will not be replaced as originally anticipated. Dr. Meenaskshi Natarajan had been practicing at the St. George Medical Centre, but closed her office on September 1. It was expected a new doctor would be taking over, but St. George Mayor Crystal Cook has learned the doctor is going to be working out of the Fundy Health Centre in Blacks Harbour. Cook said she was under the belief the doctor would be going to St. George, and is disappointed there was no communication with the town about this turn of events.

“We offered him a great deal,” said Cook. “We thought this doctor would be going into our clinic. I thought everything was good. I talked to him three times, and even took a pic for Facebook. Then, he stopped talking to us. Horizon and Dr. Raza never contacted us to tell us he was going to Fundy. To this day, he’s never told us he’s going to Black’s. I’m very happy that Blacks is getting a doctor, but it’s sad for our clinic.”

In a Facebook post, Dr. Natarajan said she has confirmed the new doctor will still be taking over her patients, but they will have to travel to Blacks Harbour instead of going to the St. George Medical Centre. While this is not a great distance, it can pose a challenge for patients who do not drive, and who were not expecting to be left without a doctor at their clinic.

When the town first began courting Dr. Raza, Cook said she contacted Horizon Health Network, and was told they don’t encourage municipalities to enter into deals with doctors. Cook told them she was willing to take steps to ensure the doctor would want to practice in St. George, and a deal was offered. She said Horizon told her they do not get involved where doctors practice, and anything they did to attract the new doctor would be up to the town.

Cook feels the Town of St. George is in competition with Horizon Health Network, and she doesn’t understand how this could happen. She said a new clinic was recently built, and Horizon was even in attendance for its opening. She also noted the town has been in extensive conversations with Horizon, and they have never had a hand in what goes on in the medical centre, other than to partner for various health care services.

“They’ve never been part of the equation since 1999,” said Cook. “I don’t know why they changed that this year. We didn’t know we were competing against Fundy. He’s putting his office there, so he gets free services for his practice. They didn’t make this offer to other doctors that have been here since 1999.

“We understand that he is a fee-for-service doctor and he can practice anywhere he wants, but we never thought Horizon would be in competition with us. I didn’t know we were competing with the taxpayers of New Brunswick.”

The St. George Medical Centre has had a doctor since 1999, and they still offer a variety of clinics for residents. Cook said she has been a strong advocate for getting a doctor for their outpatient department, but instead the doctor is going to set up his primary care practice in Blacks Harbour.

“Fundy has offered him primary. It’s not going to be outpatient,” said Cook.

This doesn’t mean there will be no family doctor or outpatient services in St. George. Things are just going to be on hold for a while until another doctor can be found. Cook said they are talking to another doctor in the area about working at the Medical Centre, and they still offer a variety of services, including foot care, COPD, hearing tests, sleep apnea tests, and bra fitting for cancer patients.

“We’re optimistic we can get someone in there,” said Cook.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca