Just An Observation: Where are all the doctors?

Something is wrong when people can’t get access except to sit and wait for hours

Ever try getting an appointment with your family doctor lately?

Or, are you like hundreds of thousands of Albertans struggling to find a family physician?

And what do you do to get health care — sit for an hour or two at least in a walk-in clinic in the hope that you will somehow get in?

Do you come back day after day trying to be among the few that get the available walk-in spaces that day?

Or, do you sit for upwards of six to eight hours in one of Alberta’s many emergency rooms with a non-emergent case simply because there is nowhere else to go?

My family and I have done all of those things over nearly the entire 12 year period since we moved to Alberta.

In fact, if it wasn’t for an emergency hospital stay and the diagnosis more than three years ago of a significant long-term disease, I’d likely still be without my own family doctor.

And the situation isn’t likely to get better for the rest of the family members, who still don’t have a doctor to call their own.

We recently tried to get an appointment for someone and was told, politely, that the only option was the walk-in clinic as only one doctor is taking new patients.

And neither option is truly viable considering two factors of which we were informed of, then told changing things is out of their hands.

First, that the walk-in clinic — which operates each weekdays with registration to start at 1 p.m. — has limited spaces and is always filled up by 12:45 p.m., which is concerning since they aren’t even supposed to take names until it starts.

Secondly, the doctor taking new patients already has a lengthy waiting list of people wanting to get on the list, so even if you get on it you’re waiting more than a month for an appointment.

So, apparently 10 doctors in Ponoka isn’t enough or is it a case of not enough time in the day to cover the clinic and the hospital?

This issue isn’t limited to the smaller communities. We lived for several years in a large urban centre and at no time could secure the services of a family doctor.

So, it begs the question — where have all of the doctors gone?

Something is drastically wrong with a health care system when a family is reduced to feeling like they are scraps being picked up by the next available janitor, hoping things don’t get worse before they can be taken care of.

Sure, being able to see a doctor is a bonus when you need it, but not having a family doctor is a huge headache, not to mention a waste of time for everyone involved.

The doctor can look at a chart — providing you go to the same walk-in clinic all the time — but that only means the doctor can tell what you came in for and if anything was done.

Unlike a family doctor, they don’t know you and often know nothing of your medical history. They have no understanding of how things tick for you and many times they don’t have the time available to find out. It’s a 15 minute (often less though) visit to deal with the immediate problem, complete with a lack of follow up since you may not see the same doctor the next time around.

Aside from the benefit of the family doctor knowing everything they need to know, they can tell what’s different from the last visit whether you realize it or not. They also understand your lifestyle and can suggest improvements to make your health better.

It can also be especially helpful when it comes to talking to the patient about possible mental health changes, since they know who you are and not just know your name.

And yes, I understand there is a growing population in Alberta alongside the fact that the number of elderly patients is steadily increasing and their health issues take up a lot more of the health system’s time and money.

However, that means that the provincial government needs to ensure more doctors are entering and staying in the Alberta’s general practice system.

There has to be a better way to provide people with quality and timely care without tying up resources at our already over-taxed hospitals.

Well, you’ll have to excuse me now, since I must go to emergency to see a doctor.

But that is…just an observation.

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