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'You're on your own': B.C. woman without family doctor trapped in medical limbo after cancer diagnosis


A Nanaimo, B.C., woman says she's stuck in a life-threatening limbo while she is off work dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Nicole Richard, who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, says her health insurance won't process her claim without documentation from a family doctor. But, like many people in the province, she doesn’t have a doctor.

The problem was compounded by the fact that news of her diagnosis was delayed for months.

"This bomb was dropped on me and it's like, 'Here you go, you're own your own, deal with it.' It's mind-boggling," she said.

Richard has suffered from stomach pain so severe that it's kept her off work.

"It was constant cramping, getting sick, losing major amount of hours from work from not being able to work, being drained all the time," she said.

She did go to see her family doctor initially, but he died last summer just as her search for answers began.

Unable to find another doctor, the pain continued and Richard says her health insurance provider stopped her coverage because she didn't have a doctor who could provide paperwork.

"All we get is, 'You have to find one, you have to find one.' Well if it was that easy we would have one," said Richard's fiancé, Kirk Burns.

The couple went to the local health clinic for four straight days, tried other doctors, and even visited the emergency room.

"Everywhere we phone and everywhere we go to it's the same thing, 'You need to get a doctor,'" said Burns.

"If we could get a doctor, we'd have a doctor. Unfortunately, she can't get a doctor," he said.


The couple say their insurance provider, Manulife, wouldn't accept paperwork from Telus Health. It’s a claim Manulife is disputing.

"When I reviewed the claim in its entirety, I can see an email where our Case Manager did inform the member that we would accept info from Telus Health given her challenges with the healthcare system to approve her claim," said Manulife spokesperson Jeremy Laurin.

Telus says its documentation should be accepted by any heath insurer. 

"Our team of doctors providing care through the Telus Health MyCare service are all provincially licensed family physicians," said Dr. Keir Peterson, chief medical officer with Telus Consumer Health in a statement.

"They are the same doctors, with the same qualifications, as those providing care in clinics in communities across British Columbia."


When the couple turned to Telus Health, they did get Richard an appointment. But then another delay occurred and the couple say Telus Health never called her back with her results, she said.

"We hadn't heard anything," said Burns. "We thought it can't be that bad."

But it was. On Nov. 10, while talking with another physician online, Richard learned she had tested positive for colon cancer and Telus Health had the results on Sept. 9.

"[The doctor] was in shock that nobody had contacted me with these results," said Richard. "He didn't really know what to say."

Still, the couple feels stuck in a dangerous gridlock.

"Until we have a doctor that will fill out any paperwork or show them that this is what is going on, we have no help, we have absolutely no help at all," said Burns.


When the couple’s plight was brought to the attention of B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix during a Nov. 16 news conference, the minister promised his office would look into the matter.

“I’d be interested in getting all the details and seeing what we can do to help this person in those circumstances” Dix said.

Burns said the couple did receive follow up communications with Telus, Manulife and a representative of the health minister’s office to bring the situation to a resolution.

“We are keeping positive and want to wait and see what the other test results come back but I can say Nikki is in a lot better frame of mind is back looking at wedding things” Burns said. Top Stories

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