Family physicians needed to take on refugee patients

Josh Pennell
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With the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in St. John’s there’s a growing need for family-practice doctors to take on some of the city’s new residents as patients.

Seven-year-old Daad Ahmed (left) and 10-year-old Nahla Tamer are two Syrian children who recently arrived in St. John's. There's a need for local family physicians to take on refugee families so they get continuous care.

“What we’re hoping is that even physicians whose clinics are full, that as a humanitarian gesture of goodwill they’ll consider taking a few patients,” says Dr. Christine Bassler.

Bassler and fellow doctor Pauline Duke started a refugee clinic last September where they were available to see government-assisted refugees. This weekend they are holding the first clinic for about 150 Syrians who have arrived. It will take place at the family practice unit in Memorial University’s faculty of medicine.

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But with more Syrians on the way, Bassler and Duke need other family practitioners to take on refugee patients following the clinics to provide ongoing care.

“What we need is family doctors to take them into their practices once we clean them up, basically,” Bassler says.

“We can’t incorporate 500 people into our practices.”

The two doctors are part of a team who will treat the refugees this weekend. Students and staff from the faculty of medicine will participate. The group will conduct the recommended screenings for infectious diseases and assess what other health problems the Syrians might have.

“Some people are healthy with minimal issues. A lot of people have dental issues,” Bassler says.

“There’s all kinds of chronic things, where they might have been a couple of years in a camp without any medical care.”

There’s also the pregnant and the very young who have not been receiving any care.

“I’m seeing people who are pregnant with diabetes who have had no prenatal care,” says Bassler.

“(There’s) certain viruses going on. A lot of kids across Canada coming in have fever and respiratory issues.”

Then there’s also the unpredictable ailments and illnesses — those that would be somewhat unfamiliar, such as certain parasites.

“The average family doctor wouldn’t know about those things. So that’s why we’re hoping that we do all that stuff, then we get them all referred.”

They won’t come close to seeing all the Syrians who have recently arrived and, with more on the way, there will be future clinics in the spring.

But what the doctors want to get across most is that they need family physicians to refer the refugees to after they assess and treat them at the clinics.

“We would be so appreciative, and the patients are so appreciative of the help. And it would be just a wonderful gesture, I think, recognizing what’s going on.”

Bassler hopes local family doctors will take on at least one family to ensure the hundreds who will be here eventually will each get the reliable care they need.

She and Duke are also willing to give support with any unusual chronic diseases or unusual infections. They’re also there to help with getting translators and have knowledge of the interim federal health program.

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Donald
    January 15, 2016 - 16:52

    So, these newcomers get full access to doctors while I can't find a family doctor and wait years to see a specialist?

  • Trouble
    January 15, 2016 - 11:34

    This is unbelievable. We have so many of our own without doctors. This is going to cause trouble and people are going to take it out on the refugees, but they shouldn't. It's the government or all the people who have been on here supporting the idea of bring them here. Maybe these supporters can give this spot with their family doctor to a refugee. Not likely. They are just all talk.

  • Taylor
    January 15, 2016 - 09:55

    Now how many of these kids are in school and bringing more and more illnesses to the school system for our kids to catch and spend time away from school or have to spend time waiting in dr's offices or hospital waiting rooms for medicine or care - leading to parents having to take time off work. Nothing good to come from bringing all those people here.....only going to cause more trouble than not.

    • Donna J.
      January 15, 2016 - 10:25

      Awww... having to take time off work and sit in a doctor's office. It's not like you came home the other day to find your house gone and your parents dead. How many of these kids are bringing fresh perspectives and insights into the classroom? How many of these refugees will be bringing new skills and talents that you will benefit from? The only illnesses spreading is ignorance.

    • Paul
      January 15, 2016 - 11:12

      you suggesting that there are no illnesses in our school system? my kids had stomach flu every year until they hit Jr High.

    • Tim
      January 15, 2016 - 11:46

      Fortunately for kids here their vaccinations would be up to date and the necessities to facilitate good daily hygiene are available. These kids and their families are very deserving to have the best possible health care we can provide them. They have been through hell and back - Unfortunately for you your comments lead me to believe you were not taught empathy as one of your life lessons. And believe me sir - nothing good comes from people like you who clearly lacks compassion. Don't be part of the problem - If you can't be a part of the solution just go away.

  • abby
    January 15, 2016 - 09:31

    I. also, 81,nflder, would like a doctor, and as of now,not much of a chance.

  • scottie
    January 15, 2016 - 09:18

    Nothing like jumping the queue. They should have to line up like everyone else.

  • Ladybug
    January 15, 2016 - 09:11

    Dr.Bassler and the other doctors should be contacting Justin Trudeau asking him who is paying for these services and where are the Doctors to look after them. I am troubled by the outcome , we who pay taxes all our lives will have to pay more and receive less. Justin Trudeau should send more money, after all he wants more and more refugees in our province and country. This is just the start

  • Me
    January 15, 2016 - 08:44

    Bet they won't have to wait 8 hours in an emergency room to see a Dr like I had to back in November ..

  • Jerry
    January 15, 2016 - 05:55

    Theres lots of newfoundlanders who do not have a family doctor. I guess theres less chance now.

    • Paul
      January 15, 2016 - 11:11

      it depends on where you live. in my town there are multiple walk in clinics. no problem to get a family doctor.

  • Denis
    January 15, 2016 - 05:46

    Way to fully think things through... The people of the province have said they can't get Dr's... Now with a 100 more people u hope Dr's will take these people on... Waiting times in Emerg will be longer because of this....Next thing is crowded classrooms, food banks needing more food, etc.. I think Trudeau jumped the gun... And now everyone will be scrambling...

    • Tommy
      January 15, 2016 - 13:14

      Doctors are available. Where they are not there is a clinic or a hospital to avail of. Be it a bit of a drive or a wait time the service is still available. In Syria there is no safe hospital setting that is not under the threat of a smart bomb. Medical services are not available in a tent city border refugee camp. Show some compassion for Christ sake!!

  • Huck
    January 14, 2016 - 22:41

    If Doctor's are willing to take on more patients, it should the people who are at the top of the waiting list. No doubt the refugees would like to see a Doctor, but they can add their names to the list and wait their turn like everyone else. Perhaps someone should have mentioned to them, that is how it is supposed to work in their new country.