Friday, April 03, 2009

What's wrong with the traditional medical system

A few of you have emailed me to ask how I'm feeling.  I haven't mentioned it in a few posts because, frankly, I was boring myself.  But, I'm going to talk about it now.

My symptoms change.  They change and the old ones often don't return, which is good I suppose.  Sometimes they still linger in the background.  Sometimes I even forget about them.  Here is the synopsis of what is going on with my body the last couple of days:

  • pain in my side still there on and off through the day.  Sometimes sharp, sometimes a dull ache.
  • burning in my toes as though I've been out in the cold for a while without good socks or boots.  Very annoying as you can imagine.
  • still tingling and toes in my fingers occasionally
  • strong tingling in my heels occasionally
  • fatigue
  • tired legs, although my muscles haven't lost strength
  • hot face - mostly cheeks - feels burning and warm on and off all day
  • sandpaper tongue - best way to describe it - sometimes accompanied by sore throat
  • congested sinuses - since this all started
  • sore hip and leg muscles but can relieve it with lots of stretching
  • extra-sensitive fingers - when I press on something or pick something up I can feel the pressure of it for about 10 minutes afterwards.  Annoying.
  • some occasional numbness/tingling in the left side of my chin
  • Bathroom issues.  Won't expand.
Obviously, I'm concerned and it is all really weird.  And that leads me to be extremely frustrated with the seeming lack of concern and attention from my family doctor.  For those of you reading from outside of Canada, this is not related in any way to our socialized medical system.  This is related to the fact that traditional medical systems, in Canada and the U.S. and elsewhere, leave patients victims to the whims of their family doctors. 

I can see my family doctor usually with a few hours notice if I have an urgent need.  If, for some reason, I can't see her, I can always see a doctor the same day through the after-hours clinic she is a member of.  Any Canadian can see a family doctor the same day through the plethora of walk-in clinics around and we don't have to lay down a cent to do so.  That's a great thing.

But the problem is with this model of care.  If you're family doctor is slightly incompetent, a little too laid back, perhaps sees too many patients in a day, you are left victim to their whims and inattention.  And that is the situation I find myself in now.  I can't turn elsewhere.  Any walk-in I go to will ask who my family doctor is and that I should see her the next day.  They'll examine me for anything urgent and suggest my family doc order up a few tests.  Problem is that she isn't doing so.

I saw her two weeks ago presenting her with my new symptoms, all of which seemed neurological.  She said that it all seemed odd and she would refer me to a neurologist and order some more blood work (which I did that day).  I went ahead with my pelvic ultrasound although the pain in my side was no longer pelvic (and the ultrasound came back all clear).  I asked her to order me an abdominal ultrasound when I called after my pelvic.

I finally heard yesterday, two weeks after the appointment and three times after I called her office asking about it, that I have an ultrasound.  On May 12.  The ultrasound clinics in Ottawa, for some reason, are over-worked.  In other cities, I know this isn't the case but for some reason, Ottawa has a problem. I'll be calling frequently to find out if they have cancellations.  

Since I saw her two weeks ago, I haven't heard about the neurologist appointment.  As I mentioned, I've called three times.  Her admin assistant told me yesterday that there is a referral letter in my file that has "been started."  She seemed embarrassed and said she'd get back to me.  I haven't heard back from her yet.

You see my issue?  Who else can I turn to?  I happen to know that there is pretty good wait time (about 8 weeks I think) to see a neurologist in Ottawa.  And my family doctor hasn't even finished the letter yet.  

I know she is a single mom with two kids.  But this is her job and she's not doing it well.  If she doesn't have enough time to finish her letters during the day, she should see fewer patients each day.  I imagine I'm not the only patient she has that's frustrated.

All over Canada and the U.S., I know that there are other people like me, frustrated by the way our system is set up, with no one else to turn to, slave to the methods of their family doctor.  

Luckily for me, I have a way to circumvent this system if I wish.  Although I have criticized others who jump the queue, I'm going to be one of those people, most likely.  I have a good friend who is a surgeon in Toronto who said he can get me in with a neurologist friend of his there.  I can stay with him and Deb, my good friend, while I see this doctor and hopefully get an abdominal ultrasound at the same time.  

However, most people don't have a surgeon friend to rely on.  Those people have to sit and stew and get frustrated because their family doctors aren't giving the care that they require.


Julie said...

Hey, jump the cue with no guilt! This is your life and your health, and you know that any other person would take the opportunity without a second thought. This is something that has been bothering not only your body, but also your mind for over a month now. Grab any opportunity that comes your way if it has any chance of helping the case.

I called my family doctor today for Max's 2 year old check up and was told I could get an appointment with her sometime at the end of July. July!! So we will be seeing on of the residents May 12. 5 weeks to see a resident!

little b said...

It's so frustrating! I wonder if there is the same issue in Britain or France. It does seem like a general issue not specific to a certain health care system.

You should definitely head to Toronto and fill a whole day with appointments. It's time to figure out what's going on.

Pam said...

I agree with Julie...jump the queue without guilt or remorse. Your health is too important to wait on the whims of an overworked family doctor. Unfortunately we are all being placed in this situation where we have to look at alternatives and become pushy when seeking care for ourselves and family members.

I too have been shuffled around, exasperated and frustrated by the system and had to seek out a new family doctor. This new doctor cannot seem to manage her time (I've waited over 2 hours for an appt) but at least this doctor seems to be proactive and willing to make quick referrals.

Good luck. Keep us posted on the results of your appointments in Toronto.

Erika said...

I'm so sorry Karen! This is SO frustrating -- and no, it's not just Canada, it's everywhere )c: I say take up your surgeon friend's offer in Toronto and go for it. We do this all the time for people who need to be seen but just don't have the means to communicate the urgency to the secretaries you get to talk to. I'm sorry your GP's not quite cutting it )C: so sad... SO IRRITATING! I hope you feel better... let us know what the neurologist says!