spring 2013

d o c t o r s   i n   t h e   n e w s
Newfoundland, my home no more

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Dr. Lydia Hatcher

I am leaving Newfoundland, my home for over 45 years. I have been a family doctor for the past 31 years so it is with some guilt and mixed emotions that I made this difficult decision.

By Dr. Lydia Hatcher

I am leaving Newfoundland, my home for over 45 years. I have been a family doctor for the past 31 years so it is with some guilt and mixed emotions that I made this difficult decision.

I moved to Newfoundland from England with my family in 1968. I was eleven. My father, who was Indian and married to a white woman, could no longer deal with the prejudice that we endured frequently from the mixed marriage; to having rocks thrown at us for our colour; to my father’s inability to find a consultant job because of his race. So he took the plunge and moved us to St. John's in Canada, the land of plenty. My friends assumed we would live in igloos.

Had we stayed in England I was slated to go to technical (trade) school at age 12 and medical school would never have been an option. When I began school here in grade six I got A's and never looked back. I applied and got in to medical school at MUN. I did all my training to become a family doctor in Newfoundland, met and married a Newfoundlander, and had two kids here.

So what happened? All my siblings moved away, all but one to Ontario, the land of even more plenty!? And my children did the same Ontario as well partly from lack of opportunity here as is true for so many young Newfoundlanders. My husband who had been ill most of his life passed away in 2011 leaving me here alone. Then, my daughter, also married to a Newfoundlander, had a baby and that was the icing on the cake. "Why are you not here with all of us," they asked.

Why indeed? Because I felt so strongly about the health care of this province. In the 1970's, my father started the human rights society with a group of socialist friends and spent much of his time making the lives of fellow Newfoundlanders better. I wanted to do the same. I got involved with medical politics as a way to help on both a provincial and then national level. I developed a counselling practice and then a chronic pain consulting practice as part of my work to manage the health care of those who often had no one to listen and understand their problems or help them improve their health. I also teach doctors safe and effective ways to manage patients with chronic pain. When I asked government officials to meet to discuss the needs of my patients, especially with me leaving, I was ignored.

I finally got tired of trying. Tired of seeing cutbacks, unsafe policies and lack of support in so many facets of health care, but in particular for patients with chronic pain. Tired of not being taken seriously and tired of not being listened to even when solutions are presented. Worst for me was that this is not just a problem for me as an individual. Here we are and the people of this province have worse health care, I believe, than we ever have with unacceptable wait times, not enough support and cuts even as I write this. So, with the pull from family it was not a hard decision except when it came to my patients.

I have spent over 30 amazing years being a family doctor and pain consultant here. I will miss my patients, my practice, my colleagues, my friends and this beautiful province. It has given me and my family so much. Newfoundland, my home no more. I will miss and love you forever.

Dr. Hatcher's op-ed was also published in The Telegram on April 6, 2013.



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