It’s been more than a year since the Knowlton Medical Clinic lost two of its physicians. This left thousands of patients without a family doctor. Many are elderly and frail. If they followed the advice of the government and registered on a waiting list online, they only have to wait 477 days or more before they can have access to a physician. If they are considered “vulnerable’’ their wait will be reduced to a mere 367 days. (From the Auditor General’s Report) The government’s stated objective is 21 days. How can it be so far from target? This is most distressing.

How many such “orphaned’’ patients are now waiting in TBL? Hard to tell. The “system’’ does not track these cases by municipalities.

For months now and with the support of the population, Mayor Richard Burcombe and the TBL council have been putting pressure on the health authorities and on our MNA, Minister Isabelle Charest, to get the needed doctors at our clinic. It is an urgent human need.

In a letter the mayor received recently from Stéphane Tremblay, the CEO of regional health services, both the tone and the future prospects looked grim, here’s a sample: “It is up to the DRMG and the respective territorial boards to identify which RLS’s are suffering, and then for the doctor concerned to choose where he or she wants to practice (…) I remind you that the registration rate of the RLS La Pommeraie is 91% compared with the average rate of 85% in the entire Estrie region.’’

Hope you got this. Distressing and disquieting.

In light of our often detached from reality health care “system”, it is more than ever necessary to support our mayor and our council in pursuing the local health and political authorities, in holding them accountable, in keeping them connected to the needs of the population that rightly expects a decent level of care from our expensive but often inefficient health care system.

N.B. DRMG stands for “Département régional de médecine générale”. For more on health care department acronyms, go to www.cisss-bsl.gouv.qc.ca for a 15-page list.

Excerpts of letter sent to Mayor Burcombe

Here are excerpts from Stéphane Tremblay’s letter, the CEO from the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Estrie – Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke or, simply put, CIUSSE-CHUS sent to Mayor Richard Burcombe on Sept. 8, 2020. The letter was in reply to a request from the mayor, dated August 31, 2020 concerning medical services in TBL for residents who do not have a family doctor.

“I am aware that we have discussed these matters with you on several occasions and that certain information has been sent to you…” Then the letter says that many family doctors will be retiring in the region; it will make recruitment more difficult. It goes on to say: “ The rule regarding regional allocation of family doctors is a ministerial rule which has hardly changed over the years. Year in and year out, the rule does not enable us to meet all the needs.(…) In fact, the territorial board has prioritized your area to obtain a grant to install a future family doctor. The letter goes on to mention the inscription rate on the local services list (RLS) and states: “We are also working on the fact that residents without a family doctor are entitled to receive services near where they live. Currently the territorial board is working to identify solutions for this orphaned clientele.”

The letter was copied to Isabelle Charest, MNA for Brome-Missiquoi as well as to other regional health officials including Dr. Raymonde Vaillancourt, Chief of the Regional Department of General Medicine.

Ed. Note: Letter translated by Tempo