What's Croatian for Help?
by Tricia Dower
I have an aversion to doctors because I saw how poorly they served my mother. Some would call my aversion neurotic. I can’t remember the date of my last mammogram or Pap test. I have no idea if my blood pressure is too high, too low or, as Goldilocks would say, just right. I take no prescription drugs. Needless to say, I’m not a big user of the public health system. Recently, however, I developed a “condition.” Nothing requiring me to recline on a chaise, Camille-like, and cough into a lace-edged hanky, but it’s more worrisome than the eye infection I had a year ago for which a drop-in clinic worked just fine. I’ve decided it’s time, at long last, for a proper check-up. Time to see if my spark plugs and fan belts need replacing and which of my tires should be rotated.
My dentist recommended an MD who practices holistic medicine. I liked the sound of that. Unfortunately, the BC health plan for which we pay premiums doesn’t cover holistic practitioners.
I called a few doctors recommended by friends. They’re not taking new patients. One might have considered me if I was abusing alcohol. It was tempting.
I went to the Victoria Medical Society site for a list of doctors who are taking new patients. There were none in my immediate neighbourhood. Of the nine not too far away, three take only maternity patients and young families, two specialize in sports medicine, one has office hours only from 1 – 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and another just graduated this year. (I know, I know, somebody has to give the new grads a chance.) That left two at the same address who speak English and Serbo-Croatian and describe their practice as: Family medicine for patients 55 plus and do not have a family doctor or whose family doctor has retired and who are within the geographic location south of McKenzie Ave and east of Douglas St. Could that be me? I’m terrible at geography.
I called. After providing my address and swearing to my age, I passed the initial screening and was told to expect an application for care in the mail.
“I have to apply?”
There’s something scammy about the government charging for scarce or unavailable services and refusing to cover the ones you can get.
The application came a few days ago. It’s a detailed medical history form. A friend told me she had to apply, too, and was advised by someone in the know not to come across as too medically needy. “They don’t want sick people,” she said.
A letter accompanying the form reads: If your needs meet our criteria, we will place your application on our waitlist. Our staff will then contact you to book your initial appointment with our registered nurse. Please note that we currently have a waitlist of up to two months.
According to one article I came across, more than four million Canadians can’t find a family doctor; we make do with drop-in clinics and hospital emergency rooms. Our doctor shortage is partly due to a 1991 commissioned report in which two health economists predicted that
- Doctors are aging and retiring like so many others.
- Fewer med school grads select family practice, in part because many of them are coming out with big debts and see greater financial opportunity in other specialties.
- A growing group of family doctors take care of their families as well as their practices and are choosing to work fewer hours a week.
- One in nine Canadian-trained doctors migrates to the
- Doctors from commonwealth countries can practice in
right away, but others must requalify and then complete a residency program. The number of residency spots is limited. Canada
I’m ashamed to admit I was unaware of this predicament until it affected me. For years, I’ve defended
I will send in my application and wait. If I knew Serbo-Croatian, I’d throw in a few words to strengthen my case.
Image by Swedish illustrator Tesa.