The Doctor is (Not) in

Posted 11.06.06

The announcement in the West Quebec Post was encouraging. Three new doctors joined the Aylmer Health Coop recently. But that does little for the rest of us across the region who are without a family doctor.

It has been estimated that at least half the population of the Outaouais lack a doctor to monitor their health on an ongoing basis. Medical clinics are great for a quick emergency, but where do we go when we need an annual physical, decisions about renewing prescriptions, referrals to specialists, or orders for blood tests and other diagnostic procedures?

The woman I spoke to at the CLSS was sympathetic but had no answers. She gave me the locations of clinics near me, but warned me that I might have to wait as long a four or five hours to see a doctor, who would then ask me "What's wrong?"

I laughed that if I went to the clinic feeling great, after sitting that long in a straight chair in a waiting room full of coughing patients, I'd be able to tell him that I thought I had the flu, and complain about my bad back!

And there's no guarantee that a doctor you see at a clinic will then accept you as a regular patient. They, too, are over-loaded.

We now have a Health Services Ombudsman, but that's to monitor treatment at hospitals and other facilities, not to find doctors for us.

I was beginning to panic. My doctor retired last winter, and I'm going to need prescription renewals soon. So I went to the website that lists new Ontario doctors who are taking patients, and made an appointment. But I will have to pay for this myself, then file some paperwork to obtain a rebate from the province, who only pays about 70% percent of the cost.

What about low-income families who can't afford to pay upfront? What about those who don't live close to the Ontario border?

We have (as I keep reminding you) an aging population, whose health needs to be monitored regularly in order to keep them from taking up critical-care hospital beds, or be forced from their homes into long-term care.

As I write this, the Ottawa Citizen is publishing an extensive series on Alzheimer's, describing the toll on care-givers, the lack of funding for chronic-care beds, and rules in Ontario that keep families from selecting their first or second choice if an elderly patient needs to be moved out of the hospital quickly.

What is the situation in Quebec for families in similar situations? I don't think we know. Danielle Lanyi, the excellent head of the West Quebec Health and Social Services Network (OHSSN) is working non-stop to improve services to the English-speaking population, but there's a limit to what one person can accomplish.

Meanwhile, two reports commissioned by the province reveal "poor service delivery" at hospitals, clinics and seniors' homes in the Outaouais.

To protest to local and provincial government about this, download the addresses from:

And if you end up with a doctor in Ontario, here are the forms you'll need to obtain reimbursement:

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2006 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.06