Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 05.28.11
Stanstead, Quebec


No preventive medicine? That's sick!

I might be dying.

I could be swirling with pathogens or metastasizes or basal cells or oregano cells or other medical words that I don't know how to use properly. Those snaps and pops when I ooze out of bed in the morning might not be the inevitable signs of aging but acute kellogskrispiosis. And did you read on the Internet about people with tapeworms in their brains? That would explain a lot.

For my own peace of mind (the unnibbled remnants, at least), I would like to find out whether I pass inspection or whether I'm like an old VCR: still functioning, if you don't mind the fuzzy lines and terrible sound, but definitely not worth repairing.

This is called preventive medicine, a prudent approach to health that catches minor medical problems before they become major medical problems, with their complicated interventions and expense. Preventive medicine is good for the patient and good for society.

Good luck finding it here in Quebec.

Given that it's been six years since a doctor checked under the hood, and given that even bad-ass Beastie Boys can drop dead at my age, I figured I should make an appointment for a once-over. I went to my local CLSC.

At this point, my story will be familiar to anyone without a family doctor in Quebec, so I'll keep it short:

  • The doctor who saw me six years ago is long gone.

  • There are rumours of doctors at my CLSC but they may in fact be custodial workers with stethoscope fetishes.

  • I could not make an appointment at my CLSC.
Instead I was told to call an "orphan patient" hotline and put my name on a waiting list for a family doctor.

So I did.

I listened to the bilingual phone message -- whose very length served to determine just how long you're willing to wait -- and learned that if I left my name, date of birth, and telephone number, a nurse would call me to review my medical history... in a few months. After that, I would be put on the waiting list.

I'm told the wait is two years.

Two years? In two years, my kellogskrispiosis might have degenerated to terminal soggytis.

So what are my options?

I could, of course, make healthy life choices, though I tend to believe that every act of restraint deserves a reward of indulgence -- "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of bacon" kind of thing.

I could take advantage of free tests in malls and pharmacies. If only those pharmacy blood-pressure exam chairs didn't make me so incredibly uncomfortable -- nothing, though, compared to the pharmacy prostate exam chairs.

My eldest daughter is dating a medical student. Would it be crossing the line to ask him for a checkup? On my first visit to my wife's house, my future mother-in-law asked me to wash the kitchen ceiling, so it might just be a line that's hard to cross. Being a student, though, he'd likely tell me to wear a red square and call him in the morning.

Last week, my middle daughter cut my hair in the back yard. Could back yard surgery be so bad? Not major surgery, just minor blood-lettings. Speaking of which, is it time to bring leeches back into play?

I could self-diagnose via Google (hello, tapeworms!).

I could feign an emergency, go to outpatients, see a doctor (after nine hours) and say, "Actually, I'm feeling better now. But while I'm here, do you mind if I turn my head and cough?"

I could rant about how our emergency rooms and the medical system in general are clogged with people suffering minor ailments (i.e. less important than mine). Most of the time all they really want is their antibiotics. In fact, let's just start selling antibiotics at Loblaws next to the Flinstone vitamins, for all the amount of good they do.

I could resign myself to the fact that this is our health care system: overtaxed, weighted down by bureaucracy, no preventive medicine, expensive acute care, and long waiting lists just to see a doctor, which creates further stress, which in turn is bad for your health.

Ironic, no?

Finally, I could point out to students demanding free higher education that this is what free health care looks like...

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at