New Fogo Island doctor ‘can’t come quick enough’ say ecstatic and enthusiastic residents
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FOGO ISLAND, NL – If there was a red carpet big enough, they would roll it out in front of the ferry when Dr. Maureen Gibbons arrives on Fogo Island in April.
It was a godsend for doctors last year, Mayor Andrew Shea says.
“We’ve done pretty well with the locums (travelling doctors), but we have periods when the emergency services are closed and that’s a big issue for us,” Shea said in a phone interview. “Especially for someone who has a medical problem, it’s really scary.”
Although there hasn’t been an official announcement yet, the city is buzzing with the news.
“Everyone knows about it, so they ask me about it and they’re hooked. If you mention it to someone and they don’t know about it, they immediately light up. They’re so excited to have this doctor coming,” Shea said. “It can’t come fast enough that she’s here. We can’t wait for her to come here and we will do everything in our power to help her in any way we can to make her job easier.”
“Impossible to continue”
Gibbons has been in the medical field since 1979. She worked in Ireland, England and Germany before ending up in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1985.
In a career spanning 43 years and which has included the need for police escorts for house calls in London, the last five have been the most difficult, she said.
The burden of care – how seriously ill people are – and the intrusion of government and health officials into the workload of GPs via services like 811 (which took away many quick visits), the downloading of specialty care to GPs because of specialist doctors having so little time , as well as a seemingly overzealous MCP audit system, to name a few problems, left GPs with patients suffering from chronic and complicated illnesses, alongside stacks and stacks of paperwork and with no idea how much they were being paid.
“Since I joined this practice, I’ve worked every single weekend, with only a week off since July 2019,” said Gibbons, from her Queen’s Road office. “My place forever, my job forever. I created it, I branded it, I designed it, I did everything, but it’s impossible to go on.”
“I created it, I branded it, I designed it, I did everything, but it’s impossible to go on.”
– dr Maureen Gibbons
Due to the stress of her work and life, she had scheduled interviews for positions in New Brunswick and PEI
“Meanwhile, one of my colleagues said, ‘Why don’t you try Fogo?’ And it just hadn’t crossed my mind,” Gibbons said. “I contacted Central Health, they responded same day, I had an interview the next day and they were the most accommodating, welcoming, pleasant and every superlative word I can use.”
Working under a health agency means she gets paid for what she works, rather than spending her evenings and weekends trying to complete paperwork and forms on her own.
“I’m going to be a salaried general practitioner and an emergency doctor,” she said. “The official move is April after the mandatory three-month notice period, letters to patients, tidying up, taking care of prescriptions for a whole year, giving them some alternatives.
“Because I’ve known a lot of[my patients]for a long time…everyone hugs me and says, ‘This is so great. You’re going to have a really good doctor.’”
She considers the opportunity to work in Fogo a privilege.
“I’ve visited Fogo, love the countryside, the badlands, the sea, the hiking,” she said.
“I look forward to a caring and enriching relationship with the people of Fogo.”
dr Maureen Gibbons possible solutions for doctors leaving the province:
- Retention bonus for recognition of medical activity.
- Administrative assistants paid by the government to handle the paperwork.
- State-paid nurses in family practices.
- Compensation to recognize workload in treating chronic diseases, improving well-being in the province.
- No targeted chronic care audit.