Thursday, August 28, 2008

Family Doctor Wait Times?!

For those of us who live in Canada we're used to the concept of physician wait times. 6 months to see a specialist is far from uncommon but wait times to see your own family doctor?

I saw a patient yesterday who kindly gave me permission to anonymously discuss her story.

Over the weekend she developed acute pancreatitis. She's not a drinker (most common cause) and really the docs in the ER were stumped as to what was going on and concerned about whether or not things were going to get worse.

In terms of my patient, she was in a great deal of pain but not so much that she would require admission to hospital and therefore she was instructed to follow up with her family doctor within 2 days for further blood tests and to see how she was doing.

My patient, a health professional herself, called her doctor's office to make an appointment and explained the situation.

She was told that the earliest available appointment was 3 weeks away.

I don't understand that.

When I was training to be a family physician I was taught always to leave some emergency slots in my schedule to accommodate the unexpected. When I was a practicing family physician I had those slots and frankly even if they were full if there was a true emergency, I'd see the patient regardless. Even now in my specialized practice if a patient calls for a non-weight related emergency I'm happy to find time for them.


Not because I'm an exceptional doctor or human being, but rather simply because that's what doctors are supposed to do.

Shockingly the story I've recounted above is far from an isolated one.

What's happening to health care in Canada? Have you had similar experiences?