This past week, my husband discovered through the woman who cuts his hair that our family doctor is retiring in May. That is not entirely a surprise. He is 72 years old, and I know he's been thinking about it. He told me a couple of years ago that he was finding it hard to attract young doctors to this small town. I'm sad. He's a very good doctor.
His practice is 4700 patients strong, far bigger than any other doctor in this area. This area is 14 doctors short of what is should be based on the population. My doctor said that young doctors don't want to live in small towns; they don't want to work sixteen hour days; they want to be close to Toronto and partake of amenities. Two years ago a homegrown doctor returned to set up her practice, and when I called last week to see if she was taking patients, I was greeted with an automated message saying she was not taking patients. The bottom line? There are no doctors in this town or the closest surrounding towns who are taking new patients. This is a predicament for a lot of people. I feel especially bad for senior citizens and women with small children.
My hackles were raised because of 1) the fact that we found out word of mouth, 2) that it is such a short time between the announcement and the retirement date, and 3) that we pay into a health care system which cannot provide us with family medical care. Of course, we are not alone in our situation, here in Ontario, and I suspect in other places in Canada.
I have no wish to have a medical care system where when the crunch comes, people won't get medical attention. Canada's system is full of flaws, but I know that when I had my C-section in 1992, the least of my worries was how I was going to pay for it. Yes, we pay (heavy) taxes, but at least I was not discharged with a "Congratulations, you owe us $10,000."
I learned that if I wanted to find a doctor here in town, I would have to call on favours. Do I have a friend who can get me in? Do I have a family member who can get me in? That left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know as if that is what Tommy Douglas had in mind when he thought about health care. I have been told by my parents, who live in the province where health care was born, that doctors will interview patients before accepting them as a patient. How does one prepare for an interview with a potential doctor?
I am not one for calling in favours. I don't like the idea that I have to know someone important. I don't like the idea of needing a patron in order to get a prescription when I get a bout of bronchitis. I did, however, ask a friend for the number of her doctor. He was taking new patients. And I have an appointment in March to meet him. The town is about thirty-five to forty minutes away, depending on weather and traffic. If I had small children, I might have been disappointed. But it's just my husband and me, so we're all good.
Last night, I had a phone call from my aunt who lives in rural Manitoba. I mentioned this to her, and she told me her doctor is pushing 80 years of age. His office is 45 minutes away. They hope he doesn't retire soon. Her comment was, "If doctors don't want to work in rural Ontario, they sure don't want to work in rural Manitoba."
That little dose of perspective was necessary for me. I'm thankful to God that I found a doctor. Yes, it's further than I would like, and it means appointments will take more time than I would like. But it's a far sight better than heading to the local ER and waiting for 6 hours and putting unwanted pressure on ER services.
Perspective is good. It's necessary. It doesn't mean I may not find the trip into the doctor's office a little irritating, but it means that understanding that it could be a whole lot worse is a good way to be content with the way things are.