Sick in Sackville

Seeing a doctor in rural New Brunswick is not always an easy process, and for many students, coming back to town means a leaving behind the easy-access medical care to which they are accustomed. In these unfamiliar circumstances, the trick to getting medical concerns resolved quickly in Sackville is knowing where to go and whom to ask.

For emergencies, the first stop should always be the Sackville Memorial Hospital. Located at the corner of Main and Union Streets, the hospital deals with all medical emergencies either on site or through referrals to other nearby hospitals.

There are more options for less pressing health problems. The hospital is still an option, but students can also use the Wellness Centre, travel to Moncton to go to a walk-in clinic, or try their luck at finding a family doctor who is accepting new patients.

Unfortunately, visiting the Sackville hospital for non-urgent medical issues can result in long wait times because triage prioritizes the more urgent cases first.

It is also difficult to find a family doctor in Sackville. Of the five doctor’s offices The Argosy was able to reach, four were not accepting new patients. One was accepting patients only in mid-to-late February. These numbers are not unusual. According to the New Brunswick Medical Society, as many as 50,000 New Brunswickers are without family doctors.

The New Brunswick Medical Society’s website had a list of walk-in medical clinics in and around Moncton, and also has information about TeleCare. According to the Government of New Brunswick, “Tele-Care is a free, confidential, health advice and information line.” Dialing 811 connects you to a registered nurse, and the service is available 24/7.

The Wellness Centre is a student exclusive service located on the ground floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre.

“For non-urgent cases, it is more convenient,” said registered nurse Cindy Crossman,  who has been working in the Wellness Centre since it opened in 2003.

The wait time to see a doctor through the Wellness Centre varies. A doctor comes to the Wellness Centre for three hours each week. The clinic’s hours alternate between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. The doctor on duty also alternates between a man and a woman. Students who want a specific time for their appointment or who prefer a physician of a certain gender can expect longer waits.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, the physicians had 483 visits, 293 of which were repeats.

The Wellness Centre increases the number of clinics to meet demand as well. For the first two weeks of each semester, the centre doubles the number of clinics to meet the increased demand at that time and will schedule more clinics if students heavily book the usual weekly clinics.

“Sometimes you [think] you need to see the doctor and you don’t really need to see the doctor, “ Crossman said.

The centre has policies in place allowing Crossman to deal with some medical issues.

“I can assess your sore throat, swab your sore throat, send it to the lab, get the result back, read the result [and if it’s] positive for strep, call you, bring you back in and treat you with an antibiotic without ever seeing a doctor,” Crossman said.

Crossman can do an assessment, collect samples, and, upon receiving a positive test result, treat if there is a policy in place allowing her to do so for a number of common concerns.

“I can do pap smears. I can do STI testing. I can draw blood for HIV,” said Crossman.

Symptoms requiring an x-ray, a diagnosis, a referral to a specialist, or a medical prescription make seeing a doctor necessary, but a lot of common medical concerns can be resolved without going to a clinic or the emergency room.

“Hopefully, we’ve geared our services under the umbrella of the age between 19 and 25,” said Crossman referring to the medical procedures she is able to do because of training and the policies of the Wellness Centre.

If treatment or diagnosis requires special testing, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan, patients may find themselves referred out of town in to see specialists not frequenting Sackville. Places like Moncton and Amherst also provide opportunities for residents to receive care or become a family doctor’s patient.

While the Wellness Centre closes during the summer months, the doctors participating in its clinics will accept student patients into their private practice providing long-term care from one practitioner.

With files from Kevin Levangie.

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