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.
One common thread ran through all those interactions. Every doctor I dealt with seemed …tired.
And each of those interactions left me feeling …disillusioned.
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.
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.