A Nova Scotia woman’s desperate call for action has put a spotlight on the state of health care in the province.
Inez Rudderham, who goes by Marilyn Inez on Facebook, posted a video Tuesday that has spread like wildfire on social media. In less than 72 hours, the video received more than 2.5 million views.
In the video, the woman says she went undiagnosed with anal cancer for two years because she couldn’t get access to a family doctor.
“This is the face of the health-care crisis in Nova Scotia,” Rudderham said in the video. “Thirty rounds of radiation to my pelvis has left me barren and infertile. At 33, I’m in menopause because when my tumour was a polyp, I did not have access to a family doctor.”
She says she is the mother of a young child and that doctors only diagnosed her illness when it had advanced to Stage 3, the second-highest phase, which means it has spread to the lymph nodes and is considered advanced.
Rudderham did not respond to HuffPost’s request for an interview.
Seemingly fed up and furious, she’s bringing her fight to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
“I dare you to take a meeting with me and explain to me, and look into my eyes, and tell me that there is no health-care crisis in my province of Nova Scotia,” the woman said as she wipes tears from her face. “I need help and I’m not receiving it.”
Dr. Lisa Bonang, a rural family physician working at Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., tells HuffPost Canada she found the now-viral video to be “moving” and “poignant.”
“It’s a crisis,” Bonang said. “We’re reaching a point where everything is overcapacity.”
Millions without family doctor
While the doctor acknowledges many people across Canada have to wait for services, she says that Nova Scotians wait times for health-care services have created a “significant problem.”
“It’s not a good environment,” Bonang said.
Access to a family doctor doesn’t come easy. Statistics Canada says 15.8 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and older did not have a regular health-care provider in 2016. Nearly five million people don’t have a doctor, including almost 35 per cent of men and close to 20 per cent of women between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.
Nova Scotia (10.3 per cent) actually has a lower percentage of residents without a physician than Quebec (25.6 per cent), Saskatchewan (18.7 per cent) and Alberta (18 per cent), the survey says.
In her video, Rudderham also says there are long waits for mental health services in the province. She adds she’s been trying to get an appointment since January, and four months later, she has one scheduled for July.
“I cannot receive help for trauma I have experienced because of this failed system,” Rudderham explained.
Bonang says waits of up to five months are not unusual in Nova Scotia. To make matters worse, people who don’t have a family doctor or access to mental health services are forced to resort to hospitals, where there are more long waits.
“If they’re in crisis, that’s their option — to go to an emergency room.”
Premier responds to video
Facing calls to take a meeting with Rudderham, the premier posted a statement on Facebook about the “heartbreaking video” that has been shared more than 85,000 times.
“Like you, I am very concerned,” McNeil wrote. “I immediately reached out to the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). They are trying to contact Ms. Rudderham to get more information about her situation.
“According to the NSHA, cancer patients have more immediate access to a psychiatrist through the oncology program. We want to ensure she is getting the treatment and support she needs.”
HuffPost asked the premier’s office for comment and received the same statement McNeil posted to his Facebook page. There’s no word if he will grant Rudderham’s request to meet.