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Ottawa family forced to use emergency room for prescriptions due to doctor shortage


A family doctor shortage and increasing hospital admissions during the holidays is forcing one Ottawa family to sit and wait for hours in the emergency room to receive a prescription.

Every three months, Veronica Proulx-Pilon and her two kids are forced to wait in the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario's (CHEO) emergency room to get a prescription for ADHD medication – medication she says can’t be prescribed by a walk-in clinic or virtual doctor.

The family moved to Ottawa last year from Whitehorse, YT and have not been able to find a family doctor.

"We got ourselves on several wait lists. It’s been a year-and-a-half and we still don’t have a doctor," said Proulx-Pilon.

"Doctors won’t prescribe that medication because it’s considered a controlled substance so we are stuck going into emergency for a non-emergency issue, but it’s still very important."

Earlier this week, the longest wait time for a full assessment at CHEO was 17 hours. On Wednesday at around 11:30 a.m. that wait time was just over nine hours.

"Not only are we going to emergency and opening ourselves up to all the other ailments and getting sick, we are also taking up space for people who need to see the doctor for an actual emergency," said Proulx-Pilon.

Hospitals say emergency rooms are filling up with holiday ailments, including RSV, flu and COVID-19.

“We peaked yesterday on Dec. 26, which is usually a busy day for us, so not unusual, but definitely we're seeing higher volumes," said vice president of acute care services at CHEO, Karen Macaulay.

The Montfort Hospital in Ottawa's east-end is reporting wait times of over 18 hours for a full evaluation. The Queensway-Carleton Hospital is also warning of longer than usual wait times, but does not provide exact figures.

On top of seasonal viruses and staffing shortages in hospitals, a lack of family doctors is adding pressure to an already burdened system.

"We are seeing a little bit more of that," said Macaulay. "We have those patients come in, we triage them, give them information and provide them with other options if required."

Macaulay adds that CHEO is trying to increase the types of services available for non-emergencies including its Kids Come First clinic to provide more options for those without a family doctor. Top Stories

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