As NL struggles with a doctor shortage, patients embrace the annual Women’s Health Day

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Eastern Health’s Women’s Health Clinic offered appointments for Pap tests Saturday as part of its annual Women’s Health Day event. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends starting the Pap test at age 21. (Paul Daly/CBC)

For some patients at Saturday’s annual Women’s Health Clinic, the event, where Eastern Health offers Pap test appointments to anyone who needs them, is the preferred setting for an important procedure.

For others – who are among the estimated 125,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador who don’t have a family doctor – it’s the only option.

Danielle Gorman says that going to the Health Sciences Center in St. John’s to have her test done was quick and easy — far more efficient than looking for other ways to get the procedure done, such as searching after a family doctor, she said.

“Not many doctors are taking on new patients right now,” said Gorman, who works as a secretary at the Center for Health Sciences.

“It’s very difficult to get a GP these days,” she said. “It was definitely an easier option.”

Danielle Gorman, a secretary at the Center for Health Sciences, went to the Women’s Health Clinic to get a Pap test. She says the process has been helpful because she doesn’t have a family doctor. (Submitted by Danielle Gorman)

A Pap test, also known as a pap smear, is a procedure used to test women for cervical cancer. As one of many in the province who don’t have a family doctor, Gorman said it’s easier for people to check on their health when other options are available.

“It’s important because it gives everyone a chance to make sure nothing serious is going on with themselves,” she said.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that Pap tests should begin at age 21.

In a press release, Eastern Health estimated that about one in 10 people could have an abnormal result, which doesn’t necessarily mean a cancer diagnosis but makes it important to contact a healthcare provider.

Gillian Halliday says her sister, who works at the Women’s Health Clinic, encouraged her to take a Pap test on Saturday. Although she has a family doctor, Halliday says she feels more comfortable going to a women’s clinic to have such procedures.

As a mother of two boys, Halliday said staying healthy is crucial for her to care for her children. That’s why events like Saturday are so important, she added, because they allow everyone to receive procedures that could help identify and prevent immediate health problems like cancer.

“If you can’t have a GP, you still can’t lose sight of your health,” Halliday said.

“The fact that we’re offering things like health day where anyone can come in and get tested to take care of their health is just an amazing thing.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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