is there a doctor in the house?

In 2003, more than 1.2 million Canadians were unable to find a regular physician, according to Statistics Canada. Recent surveys report that more than 4 million Canadians can’t find a family physician to care for them.

Houston, we have a problem.

Six months ago, my family doctor retired. Truth be told, I was pretty happy about that, because I secretly felt he was starting to go senile.

I never thought it would take me six months… SIX MONTHS…to find a new doctor.

And never did I ever think that I would face a massive health crisis during my family doctor-less status. Without a primary GP, I was utterly alone. I had no one to advocate for me. I had no one to facilitate referrals to specialists. Specialists who will not see you without a referral.

I won’t rehash the month of April because I’ve ranted about those events enough. What I will say though is that I had the opportunity to interact with many doctors, both generalists and specialists, and also surgeons.

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One common thread ran through all those interactions. Every doctor I dealt with seemed …tired.

Disengaged.

Jaded.

Disinterested.

And each of those interactions left me feeling …disillusioned.

Scared.

Dismissed.

Yesterday, six months after I last saw a family physician, I had an interview with a new, prospective, GP. I went in with low expectations. I had interviewed with one near my previous home in December, who gladly took me on, but then promptly told me that I couldn’t get in for an official appointment (full physical) until May.

Five. Months. Later.

In March, his office called to say he had “unexpectedly left the practice” and that they would assign me to another doctor who was accepting new patients, but I couldn’t see him until June.

I wish I was kidding.

So, back to yesterday.

Yesterday, I expected the worst. I expected a tired and disengaged doctor to spend 10 minutes racing through a series of questions; putting ticky marks in check boxes, and not even feigning interest in delving into the specifics of my medical history.

card3636What I got was a fresh, energetic, and delightful doctor who actually had a conversation with me.

We chatted. CHATTED.

What a novel concept.

Yes, he is young, probably 32 or 33 years old, which means he may not have a world of experiences under his belt yet, but he delivered bedside manner in spades.

That goes a long way in my book.

We closed out the appointment yesterday with him asking me to set up a full physical at the earliest availability. I prepared myself to hear the receptionist suggest a date sometime in September.

She booked me in next week.

This once-jaded patient found herself completely gobsmacked.

I left yesterday’s appointment surprised and delighted. And given my experiences with the healthcare system these past 5 weeks, also thoroughly confused.

A family doctor with a personality?

One who seems to genuinely care?

One who takes time to have a conversation?

I thought this was urban legend.

Canada needs more doctors like the gem I met with yesterday. I suspect he may be a unicorn though.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

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78 thoughts on “is there a doctor in the house?

    • Thanks NH!

      We nearly had our first lovers quarrel when I told him that I had flown to Atlanta 6 days post-op last week. He looked at me sternly and said, “I never would have approved that.”

      I responded, “Heh, it’s a good thing you weren’t my doctor last week then!”

      He didn’t laugh. Ooops. 🙂

  1. Oh, thank the heavens above, Nancy! Your whole experience scared the caca out of me and made me think twice about socialized medicine. In fact, we are in the middle of our annual health program selection through my husband’s work and we are being encouraged to go from a PPO program (where you see whoever you want without needing a referral from ANYONE to an HMO where we pay $1700 less per year but all has to be approved by a primary care physician. I am so afraid to switch but $1700 is a lot of money!

    Bedside manner is SO important. I have had well renowned surgeons operate on me but they were assholes! I hated them! I am so glad you found someone who is actually nice and who can see you next week! 🙂

    • Given what I went through last month, Maria, $1,700/yr seems like a drop in the bucket. I would have paid 3X that to have had my surgery sooner.

      I’m not sure there is an easy answer on the universal healthcare /socialized medicine debate. I truly feel that as a civilized society, we bear the responsibility of ensuring everyone has access to basic/primary medical care. But I think there is also room for a two tier strategy where you can pay for more services if you feel it’s necessary. I didn’t have that option – and it sucked!

      So far, this doctor charmed my socks off. I really hope it wasn’t just a case of honeymoon period stuff and later he’ll go from Dr Jeckyll to Mr. Hyde. Fingers crossed.

  2. I am so glad you found a good one!!

    I can’t believe it is that difficult to find a doctor!! I just did a very quick search of surgeries based on my postcode, and of the 8 pages of results within 15 miles of my house, on;y 2 were not accepting new patients and they seemed to have no electronic data available so they might be if I rang them!

    I am not even sure you are allowed to turn patients away from surgeries in this country…even if you are on holiday you can register as a visitor at the local surgery if you need one in a hurry!

    I am not going to complain about the NHS any more!

    • Oh, I should be clearer on this: there are no shortage of specialists and surgeons here. It’s general practioners (family doctors) that we are in desperate need of. Without a referral from a family doctor, you can’t get in to see a specialist. That is a big part of the problem. (well, not to mention just not having anyone to see for matters that are non-urgent — which is why our damned Emergency Rooms are always so full!)

      • yes, I was talking about GPs too 🙂
        you can’t get anywhere with no referal here either unless you sit in A&E for hours!
        I have just realised that GP practices might not be called surgeries outside of the UK…
        by surgeries I mean buildings within which you find a group of GPs 🙂 not surgeons…who mostly hang out in hospitals…

      • Ahh!!! Okay then! Here surgery = when they cut you open. 🙂

        Sounds like NHS is working just fine in your neck of the woods. Our healthcare system here in Ontario?… Not so much. 😦

      • the english language is very confusing…
        surgery is still when they cut you open…
        but a GP surgery is the place with the GPs
        politicians also have surgeries, but they rarely cut you open…
        the NHS has its problems, but I still think it is basically a great system!

      • I think a politician surgery is just where you get so sit in line and wait to see the politician to ask him questions 🙂

        Making you laugh is good 😀

      • it does seem crazy doesn’t it…
        thankfully they don’t try to give medical advice or perform surgery…
        the cutting you open sort of surgery…
        unless they are a surgeon as well as a politician…but I still don’t think they combine the two…

  3. I think our system is archaic and disenfranchises the medical community. Unfortunately that’s what I think you have been encountering. I feel so badly for people like you who have been caught in this mess needing emergency care and discovering a broken system.

    Because I could, I opted to pay for surgery on my foot through a non-covered podiatrist rather than through our medical system because
    (1) I would have had to wait a YEAR just to get the referral to a specialist, then I would have waited at least another 6 months to a year for the actual operation.
    (2) if I had needed a joint replacement as originally thought, our OHIP would not have covered it and the surgeon would have fused the joint … never to function properly again.
    Thankfully I could make the decision to pay out of pocket. Thankfully I did not require emergency care.

    Good luck Nancy. I hope this new doctor is for real!! It gives me hope that not all is lost.

    • I honestly just kept pinching myself because he seemed too good to be true, Joanne.

      And, of course, last night my mind wandered to, “maybe he’s too green; maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing… maybe that’s why he is eager for new patients…”

      I really, really hope that he is as awesome as I suspect he might be.

  4. Well Nancy, finally a post I truly “like”. Congratulations on finding a new doctor who is not jaded. Having a younger doctor will hopefully mean no changes in the near future and easier to get an appointment. Time to open a bottle of water to celebrate!!!

  5. Delighted to hear this news. As another blogger quipped earlier this week, “50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class.” Let’s hope yours is in the top half, preferably nearer the top.

    I just today dropped of my application to the new guy. Now it’s wait and see. Like a lottery. Which is insane.

  6. The U.S. is also facing a shortage of primary care physicians. That leaves people going to the ER for nonurgent problems. Then these get burdened. It’s not a good situation for sure.

    Glad you found a good doctor. I like to think there are still those of us out there who have a good bedside manner. 🙂 And remember, young doctors can often make the best doctors. They’re up to date with things, and they have more energy. 🙂

  7. A good doctor is a blessing. Sounds like a ray of sunshine after the horrendous storm you’ve been through!

  8. Yipee!! Bravo!! Congrats!! Now just how fab is that to finally have a glimmer of positivity.

    What I can say about India is the quality of health care varies dramatically from 5 star luxury to extreme incompetence without consequences. However if you have money, you have access.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have two friendly fabulous female GPs – changed only as the 1st was moving to the US and I was moving from one part of the city to the other. Been down with a mild health issue recently, called with my test results and my 2nd doc texted me the meds which my partner picked up.

    More importantly – hope your health is on the upswing!!

  9. That systems sounds incredible, Nancy. In Ireland there is no shortage of GPs, much like what was described above for the UK. In fact, it’s a buyers market. I personally believe that doctors are service providers and need to treat their patients as customers, making them feel as comfortable as possible. I think the younger generation of doctors see themselves more this way, whereas the older generation still seem themselves as people to be revered. In Dublin the “market” is so flooded that GPs go out of their way to facilitate patients in order to keep them with the clinic. I guess that all means nothing if you can’t get an appointment, though – that’s just crazy. The government should advertise in countries such as India and the Philippines where doctors are educated to a really high standard (with great bedside manner) but where salaries are low. I’m sure many would love to move to Canada for an almost guaranteed patient list. Anyway, delighted you found someone you like – it makes such a big difference.

    • If I hadn’t experienced this myself, I’m not sure I’d believe it. The system is so very broken, June.

      Many of the GPs accepting new patients are immigrants – which is fine by me… there just aren’t enough of them.

  10. It makes rhe world of difference. I so agree. You know they did a study that showed bedside manner was actually more impirtant to a patient than skills. If someone is mean or disinterested it doesn’t matter how good they are at their job. But someone can be less than perfect and if they make you feel good, you will accept that. Glad you found your number 1 doc again. The advocating part is truly the big thing. X

    • Totally Ems. When you feel like the person who should be your medical advocate is barely interested (at all) in your well-being…that’s the worst feeling in the world.

      I’m so happy to have someone who seems to genuinely care.

  11. Glad you got someone. Mine is slowly fading away. Doesn’t sit on Fridays, is spending more energy in Amway, has a great bedside manner in that he’s breezy and hearty. However, not sure I’m getting all the care I need.

    The only good thing is I can get an appointment usually in a day or so and I can get referrals pretty darn quick. However, getting to a specialist is another matter…. I need nasal surgery again and will be calling them to set up a time. Last time when it was pretty bad I had a few months to wait.

    • A few months wait for a specialist is pretty much the norm here in Ontario, sadly. Good luck with your nasal stuff. Fingers crossed you get an appointment soon.

  12. Maybe a component of socialized medicine? I hear that the doctors are overworked in Canada and in the UK. I’m happy with my GP and I hope that doesn’t change.

    • It’s not that the doctors being overworked, Rob, rather that there is no incentive for them to increase work/patient loads because of billing caps. Doctors in the area of primary care have a maximum they can bill the system – so yes, that is certainly an issue related to universal healthcare. Why would they take on work they won’t be paid for? The answer is, they wouldn’t. I’m sure I wouldn’t either, frankly.

      The only big bucks available to doctors is in the area of private services (like cosmetic surgeons or anything elective). They are not funded by the public sector – so there is no limit to how much many they can/do make.

      No incentives for GPs, unfortunately.

  13. Fantastic news…. it’s almost as though I want to congratulate you, but that seems somewhat inappropriate for the situation. Anyway, hope the experience with the physical is equally as pleasant and he doesn’t turn into a troll, or unicorn, or figment of your imagination 😉

  14. I am navigating the NHS at the moment. So far so good. Better than the U.S. pay-through-your-nose system as we weren’t entitled to Medicare. Hope your new doc works out for you. You haven’t got a little crush on him, have you?

  15. My brother couldn’t get the appointments/care/help he needed until he finally found a young specialist too, Nancy. A great, passionate Dr a few years into his practice with enthusiasm and willingness to reach out to his med school mentors for advice and a consult. Thank goodness for new Dr’s I’m so happy you’ve found your unicorn! I’ve loved my Family Practice Dr from our first visit when I was pregnant with Ryan and during my looooong labor we planned the food for her wedding (totally surprised to find out her fiancee went to high school with John), talked about the X Files and watched Animal Planet between contractions. 🙂

    • A good doctor is worth his/her weight in gold, Lisa. I’m so happy to hear Hans found someone great. I’m hoping mine continues to surprise and delight.

    • Oh he was NOT AT ALL HAPPY to hear about my flights last week, Kathy. I thought he might dump me on our first date. 🙂
      I told him I was flying to Ottawa tonight (just landed), and he started to give me grief. I looked him straight in the eye and said, look here, it’s a week later than the last trip! Come on!!
      He acquiesced. 🙂

  16. Congrats on finding the diamond in the rough. And from this last comment is sounds like you sparred with him a bit. Definitely a good sign. Happy skies!

  17. Hold on tight to him, Nance! Don’t let him get away! So happy to hear you have a somewhat happy ending to all those awful issues you went through. Must give you some relief!

  18. Finally you’re on the top of the hill you’ve been climbing! Happy you found a great GP! I trust he’s good on the eye too 😉

    • I am going to catch that little unicorn and make him grant me 3 wishes! Or is that leprechauns that you do that with??

      Either way – I am holding onto this one for dear life! 🙂

  19. YAY…glad you got yourself a doc you like….too bad it took so long. It is the same in Italy….one family doc we had was so mean…I switched after two visits…we have a nice doctor now…he spends lots of time on us…ha, ha, ha…maybe too much time! He LOVVVVESSS to explain every detail of any ailment we might have…..in a technical way…and Italian technical way…in other words I only get 30% of what he is saying. Still…at least he cares! 🙂

  20. The U.S. needs more doctors like that too. Congratulations on your persistence in finding one. I gave up on traditional MDs and started going to a holistic doctor who will actually talk with you for a whole hour – amazing!

  21. My own doctor just retired and I haven’t yet decided where I’m going to go now! You remind me, however, that a health crisis can come on quickly, and I wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for me to find a doctor that sounds as accommodating and personal as you’ve now found. I am really pleased for you, though, Nancy, and I hope you can put the crises of April behind you now and move forward in excellent health. I think you’re on the best track for that now1 🙂

    • Don’t procrastinate on this, Debra. I felt like there was no rush for me because “I’m healthy”. Ha! Goes to show how quickly that can change. Without someone to advocate for me, I was left very vulnerable. Best of luck in finding someone great soon.

  22. Boy, that is a breath of fresh air, ain’t it? When I think about the massive amounts of money the average Joe spends on healthcare, and the insurmountable problems our countries are facing with diseased healthcare systems, it is an absolute jaw-dropper to find someone, somewhere who defies the odds and the stereotype.
    I say cling to this guy, Nancy. Bake him cookies, babysit his children and knit him some socks for the holidays. Don’t let him escape.
    And if he moves, move with him.
    😀

    • Totally, Shelley, totally! I’m seeing him Tuesday for first official appointment: a full physical. Assuming he doesn’t dump me after that, I’m his and he’s mine. 🙂

  23. Nancy, I am so happy you finally had a good experience with Healthcare and your new doctor sounds ideal. I have read there is a similar crisis in the US, especially in rural areas like where we live. Young doctors in training work towards the higher-paying specialties, like plastic surgery, and this leaves a huge hole in the care system for family practitioners.

    A couple of years ago, I met the female version of your doc, who came to our small town to be a family GP. It was refreshing!

    Ps, sorry it took me so long to respond!

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