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Pediatric services need improvement

Dear editor, I wanted to write to you today to bring to the public's attention the accessibility issues I have recently struggled with surrounding pediatric services available to the children in the Gander area. While I'm sure there are numerous programs and services in place and many exceptional staff in place, the accessibility of these resources in a timely manner is failing terribly.

Over the past few year, I have dealt with various staff, medical professionals and organizations in the area. All have been helpful and easy to deal with; with the exception of accessibility. So I should state up front that I have no issue with any of the medical professionals I have dealt with regarding my sons well being. From the lady who books the appointments at the hospital, our family doctor (Dr. Doss) and his pediatrician (Dr. Kemp) — all have been wonderful to deal with and do their best with the options they have available to them from what I can tell. However, the resources in our area are grossly under staffed and children requiring such care are suffering greatly — both emotionally and socially.

I have been living in Gander since 2007, and I am the mother of a nine-year-old boy who was officially diagnosed with ADHD in October 2011. We started noticing his behaviour issues just prior to kindergarten in 2008. At that time, I took him to various resources in the Gander medical community to get a better understanding of what was going on and how we could help him. From the onset, my overall intention was to find a way for him to just have better days when socializing with his peers. The meetings, misbehaviours, disciplinary actions and assessments continued on throughout 2008 to 2011. During that time my son went through extreme stress and frustration stages; some adults were more understanding than others; some helpful, some not so much! 

In September 2011, after I contacted the school board directly, the school completed and submitted their findings to the Pediatric Clinic at James Peyton Memorial. We then met Dr. Kemp here in Gander, and the ADHD was confirmed. At that time I made the decision to have my son start medication to help with his ADHD behaviours. Within a short amount of time, my son's grades at school improved and his behaviour got under control. Like any child, he is not perfect but there has been significant progress in his social behaviours. 

When we met with Dr. Kemp in October 2011, she explained that she would prefer to conduct follow-ups with her patients every 3-4 months. Unfortunately, due to limited resources and workload, follow-up appointments are not that frequent. At our appointment, we booked the first follow-up, visit and it was scheduled for the earliest available time — May 2012. We met with Dr. Kemp again in May 2012 as scheduled and things were still going well. At the time, we scheduled our next follow-up appointment and the next available time was January 2013. Since that time, however, my son has gone through a major growth spurt and the medication is not working the same as it had been. Thus, his behaviour is slowly returning to the negative outbursts and aggressive episodes that had existed prior to the medication being introduced. 

To help get my son back on track I have contacted the pediatric clinic in an attempt to get him into Dr. Kemp earlier than January 2013, but without success. We are now on the cancellation list in hopes of getting in earlier. However, that seems unlikely since the pediatric clinic at James Paton Memorial is only open on Mondays afternoons each week. I then attempted to get our family doctor to review and/or adjust his medication to prevent him from returning to his past behaviours. She was unable to help since she felt that Dr. Kemp would want to see him before any adjustments to medication could be made. I have spoken to client relations at the hospital but really there is little they can do.

So as I sit here and tell you my story and express my concerns regarding my son's health, I am waiting to hear back from the clinic in hopes they can fit him in early. I also sit here wondering and dreading when the next call from his school will come in that he has had another physical outburst and has hit or kicked a classmate or friend without cause. Prior to beginning the medication initially, my son was spending time in the office four out of five days each week. After the medication, from October to June, he visited the office three times. Since school has started this year, he has spent 1-2 weeks in the office during his recess and lunch breaks as punishment for aggressive behaviour in class, and has also had other office visits outside of those specific punishments. This leads me to believe that his medication is no longer working as it was.

While my direct dealings with this issue comes from trying get timely care for my son when needed, I also feel that all children in this region are doing without much needed pediatric services. Currently, the pediatric clinic is only conducting follow-up appointments with existing cases and only accessible on Monday afternoons. I truly do not understand how the children in this region can be properly cared for by one pediatrician one afternoon each week. Is there nothing that we can put in place so our kids do not struggle day to day. Any and all children resources should be readily available to them when needed. With the number of school-age children in Gander alone, I would think a full time pediatric clinic and staff would be in place and fully functional.

I do plan to continue to contact the various agencies and people in my area as well until I can get adequate care for my child. As his family doctor has clearly stated, this will be an ongoing issue for him as he grows and I for one do not what him to struggle or be judged negatively over things that are clearly out of his control. There are options available that allow this to be prevented if adequate resources were made available in our region. 

Stacey Noseworthy

Gander, NL

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