For Kevin McLean, who has been tethered to a catheter for seven weeks as his body battles bladder cancer and a blockage, it has been a long and frustrating journey.
The ordeal has taken a mental and physical toll on him, and it was only made worse after the only urologist in Brandon suddenly retired earlier this year.
"I’ve missed work and all these delays have caused me to miss treatments," he said. "I should’ve had three more rounds of treatment in the past four months. I am well beyond that now and was already beyond that before this happened.
"I’m being rejected by doctors in Winnipeg and there is no urologist in Brandon."
He has been undergoing treatment for a rare form of bladder cancer since he was diagnosed in June 2021. He was referred to Brandon’s sole urologist and underwent surgery. In November, he endured a six-week treatment regimen that involved tuberculosis bacteria being injected into his bladder to stimulate his immune system to attack any remaining cancer cells.
During a followup appointment in December, his doctor found what was initially believed to be a bladder stone that was partially blocking McLean’s urethra and causing problems with passing urine. He was scheduled for surgery and went through pre-op preparations including lab work.
But there were no more calls after the December followup, McLean said, leaving him worried.
In February, however, he received a letter stating his urologist had retired.
"I hadn’t heard much from him before that," he said. "I understand he had a massive case load, being the only urologist in Brandon."
Instead of being referred to a new urologist, McLean was shuffled between many while being told the urologists were unable to take any more patients.
In the meantime, the blockage made it too painful for him to urinate on his own, so he went to the Brandon Regional Health Centre for a catheter, but the blockage needed a specialized device to get around the blockage, which the centre did not have.
He was sent to St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, where he was hooked up with the specialized catheter and sent home with a referral to Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre for a urologist.
After weeks of advocating for himself and constant phone calls, on April 11 he managed to find a urologist who agreed to have an appointment.
While he managed to find a urologist, the time delay may have come at a high price. It is now suspected the blockage may be a tumour, McLean said, but he won’t know for sure until after a CT scan. Even then, he said, he shouldn’t have had to fight like this considering the dire situation he is in.
"We are moving ahead, but at a snail’s pace," he said. "My last cancer treatment was Oct. 19 . So we are well beyond where we should be."
He knows he is just one of thousands of patients struggling to access adequate and timely health care, but said he was driven to speak out to show there are real humans being affected by these delays.
But the doctors and nurses who have tried to help him have done so with kindness and professionalism, he added.
The Sun contacted Doctors Manitoba, who has been advocating for the recruitment and retention of more physicians. Keir Johnson, director of strategy and communications, stated in an email the group could not comment specifically on this case, but did say recruitment is critical to help replace physicians who are retiring or leaving.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Manitoba had one of the lowest number of physicians per capita in Canada before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a major concern, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the provincial government and health system leaders to address this situation," Johnson said.
A spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health stated in an email the health region is working on recruiting another urologist. In addition, they are collaborating with Shared Health regarding urgent cases through the acute urology on-call service for the province, which resides at Health Sciences Centre.
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