Veteran on long-term disability waiting for family doctor since 2011

A Canadian navy veteran says he's fed up with waiting for a primary care provider after having been on Prince Edward Island's wait-list for 11 years. The patient registry list is currently 23,000 names long and set to get even longer.

Matt Dobson signed up for P.E.I.'s patient registry list 11 years ago

A Canadian navy veteran says he's fed up with waiting for a primary care provider after having been on Prince Edward Island's wait-list for 11 years.

Matt Dobson moved to P.E.I. in 2011 after being medically released from the navy when he was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been a member of the armed forces for more than a decade.

Dobson first signed up for the province's patient registry back then. But after not hearing anything for eight years, he decided to call the province in 2019 to check when he would finally have access to a primary caregiver.

"They told me that my name was no longer on the list. That they'd removed everyone off of the list that were above four years. So I had to put my name back on the list and start new again," Dobson said.

"I was pretty upset for sure. There was no call. No notification at all … They told me that I would have got an email or a letter at the time. I went back and looked at all the records. I couldn't find anything."

After that call, he said he contacted about two dozen doctors to see if they were taking patients at the time. But he had no luck.

He and his fiancée, Angie Brighty, said it's been exhausting trying to get the care they require.

"We've gone to emergency rooms together and waited for hours and hours and hours to see a doctor," Brighty said.

"The walk-in clinics — which is OK for what it's meant for … But for someone with a history like Matt has and who needs someone to take the time to review his history and find out what his needs are, the walk-in clinic doesn't even come close to meeting his needs."

'This can't go on one more day'

Dobson said he incurred depression and PTSD after serving in the Persian Gulf in 2005. He said his life is still "a daily battle."

"I have good days and bad days," he said. "It's always constantly there: daily struggles to look after myself, to do even the easiest tasks. When I have my bad days, it's pretty much paralyzing."

Dobson is currently on long-term disability and has been unable to work in the last two years because of his condition.

Matt might not be here tomorrow if no one steps up to help.

— Angie Brighty

He goes to walk-in clinics to get prescriptions and blood work done, and got a psychiatrist through Veterans Affairs who monitors his medication and also helps him with talk therapy.

While he said he currently has more good days than bad ones, there have been periods when he's been suicidal. Brighty said not having a family doctor can be dangerous.

"This can't go on for one more day," she said. "Because Matt might not be here tomorrow if no one steps up to help. It's terrifying."

Thousands still on wait-list

The patient registry list in P.E.I. is currently 23,000 names long and is set to get even longer.

Health P.E.I. has said that the recently announced departures of at least three family doctors in the Charlottetown area will affect more than 5,000 patients, which it said will certainly add more names to the wait-list.

In an email statement, the agency said they do not remove patients on the registry list after four years and that Islanders are assigned a health-care provider in chronological order.

It said 11 years is definitely longer than the usual wait time, though these also depend on the region the person selected as their preferred location for their primary caregiver. In the Queens region, the average wait is eight years.

For Dobson, the long wait-list is proof the P.E.I. health care system is broken.

"I don't see any end out of it right now. Like, it just keeps [growing into] a deeper hole," he said.

"It's sad because I know that there's so many people like me that are struggling and need primary care and someone that they can count on for to book appointments and see. And I just don't see any way out of it here in the near term."

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