Shortage of urologists is plaguing the Newfoundland and Labrador province of Canada.
It is so pronounced that patients' lives are at risk, a noted urologist has warned.
In a powerfully worded letter to the Eastern Health regional authority, Dr. Douglas Drover said an "excessive volume of work" in the specialty has meant waiting times of almost a year for patients seeking treatment.
About 300 patients are waiting for operating room time so that surgery can be performed, his letter reveals.
Drover is one of just seven urologists practising in Newfoundland and Labrador. He urged Eastern Health to hire more specialists, warning that not to do so would be "tantamount to medical negligence."
Andy Grant, a member of a prostate cancer support group in St. John's, capital of the province, said the situation was so grim that people would die — or they were already have — while waiting for surgery.
"First of all, [patients deal with] the shock you might have prostate cancer, then the shock of being confirmed with prostate cancer," he said. "Now you have the shock of saying, 'I have to wait until next year?' "
New Democratic Party Leader Lorraine Michael said she was disturbed to learn of the problems that Drover outlined.
"I think the word I would use is 'horrified.' I could not believe what was in his letter," she said.
"We're sounding like we're in a developing country and not in a province that has the resources that we have."
Health Minister Ross Wiseman said the government was working on a solution to staffing shortages in urology and other areas.
"We're in the process now of developing a physician human resource plan, and we hope to be able to, either in the early fall or late winter, roll out that strategy," Wiseman said.
"[This] will identify the kinds of specialties and family practice doctors we have — where we need them [and] how many we need — and that will give us then a blueprint for the future."
But opposition leaders want him to resign, and one has called for an independent review of "super boards" formed to govern the health care system.
Wiseman has come under continual political fire for a series of health problems, ranging from flawed breast cancer tests, inaccurate radiology reports, lengthy waiting times and shortages of medical talent.
Liberal Leader Gerry Reid said the latest revelation including shortages of dental surgeons, nurses and others — points to a growing crisis in health care. She said Premier Danny Williams could restore faith in the system by finding a new minister.
But the PM herself insisted that her health minister was "incredibly competent, conscientious and hard-working" and that she had great faith in his abilities.