The Crisis of Canadian Healthcare (Pt. 2)
The Family Doctor vs. The Specialist
Alright, after touching on waitlists and wait times in the last segment I wanted to address a specific aspect of this. There is a strange phenomenon in the Canadian healthcare system when it comes to family doctors and specialists.
It is something that a lot of people don't think about until they need to and then it's all they can think about. For some people, having a family doctor is just something that has always been there. You've seen the same doctor since you were a baby and now you take your kids to see that doctor. But you might be noticing that your family doctor is getting a little older now. Perhaps he or she is talking about retiring. Have you considered what will happen when they do?
Most people don't think about it. The assumption is that a new doctor will just take their place, but this isn't the case in many clinics in Canada. When a doctor leaves, retires, or dies there is a void that is often left unfilled and there are hundreds of patients that are displaced.
As a result, many people don't have a family doctor or even access to a nurse practitioner. This can occur for many reasons, such as:
- Your family doctor retired or died.
- You relocated outside of the service area of your doctor.
- You attended post-secondary school and simply used the clinic doctors for the years you were there and now that you're an adult do not have your own family doctor because of reason 1 or 2.
- Your family doctor dropped you as a patient due to random selection, lack of priority, or pressure from the clinic to downsize.
- You have never had a family doctor because your family always went to walk-in clinics or emerge up until now.
There are likely more reasons than those five, but those are the first ones to come to mind. Because of this more and more people are being slotted on waitlists as they realize the importance or the need for a family doctor and/or nurse practitioner to act as the first stepping stone in their medical care
So what do you do if you don't have a family doctor? Many people face this dilemma daily with their medical issues. Some go to walk-in clinics or the emergency room. Some simply treat their ailments with over the counter medicine. And some just suffer as their wait on their waiting lists.
However, if you have a serious medical condition this really doesn't work out for you. There is only so long that you can wait and this has become the outcome for many.
Now it seems that, despite not having family doctors, many individuals can have a handful of specialists they see regularly. You may be registered with an obstetrician/gynaecology, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, and a cardiologist but still not have a family doctor.
This may seem strange, but it is a lot more common than most people think. For example, you take a trip to emerge and the doctor their gives you a referral. They aren't your family doctor, but they can refer you to the specialist. The same thing can happen at a walk-in clinic.
So you have access to these temporary family doctors that will get you on the next stage of waiting lists but have no long-term investment in your care.
Gone are the days when everyone could visit their clinic and sit down with a doctor that recognised their face. Gone are the days when your doctor knew your parents and your grandparents. This is a fading phenomenon. You're lucky now if the doctor reads your name right off of the chart in front of them or even has the right file.
And this is not the fault of the doctor. This is the fault of the system. It is overburden and strained. You are treated more like a number than a person, just someone else to process through as quickly as possible.
The Canadian healthcare system has its benefits, and I will always be thankful for that. But people are people and they need a higher standard of care than you give your produce at the grocery checkout. It's not about the number of items you can scan through per hour. If you focus on speed you miss what might actually be wrong with a person. And missing symptoms can have dire consequences.