Who ya gonna call? Not a GP

** I may just get a little bit sweary in this post**

Word of warning if you move to Canada … Don’t get sick!

The health care system in Canada might be free but in my humble opinion,  it is kinda a little broken.

According to Wikipedia, a recent report states that Canada may be heading towards an excess of Doctors.  Where the fuck are these spare Doctors because they certainly are not practising in Toronto???

I was warned by The Canadian that some of the bureaucracy in this land can be a bit on the nose but FUCK ME the health care system makes me stabby.

No system is perfect and some things about the Australian Health Care system are annoying but somehow it works.  Don’t get me started on the rising costs of private health insurance premiums in Australia and why people are pulling out and only relying on the free Medicare coverage.  Anyway I digress:

In Australia you get sick, you ring the GP’s office and you generally get an appointment that day or the next but NO not in Canada.   In Toronto first of all,  you need to find a family doctor that is accepting new patients.  After asking other mums at school, using google, a government website and phoning countless medical centres I was about to give up.  Most of the medical centres I phoned are not accepting patients or if they are they would not accept children under the age of 18.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to follow up on a couple of things that reared their ugly head in my medical prior to leaving Australia and require following up I would have given up.

I eventually found a practice with 1 of the Gp’s accepting new patients and would take the 3 of us.  I explained to the receptionist I would just require an appointment for myself and then asked:  “how does it work in regards to my husband and son, do you just put their names on file so they are registered as patients”? (not wanting them to lose a spot at the practice)

Um no!  We would all be required to come in and have an initial consultation with the Doctor, kind of like a meet and greet.  I then had to book 3 individual appointments for the 3 of us (1 hour in total)  of which 3/4 of the allocated time was for 2 people that don’t currently need to see a Doctor and are not sick.   The kicker?  The first appointment I could get was 4 fucking weeks later.

4 weeks later and off we trot in the middle of the day on a Friday, half a day of work and school missed.  I went in first and my blood pressure is taken by a nurse and a couple of questions asked.

Then in comes the doctor, at first, I thought I was sitting in the wrong exam room because she was the most un-Doctorly looking person I have ever seen.  Think Kim Kardashian crossed with Jocelyn Wildenstein and then crossed with a drag queen.   Had I taken a wrong turn and ended up at a Les Girls show in Kings Cross, Sydney?

Was I in a plastic surgeon’s office instead of a General Practitioners office????

It was hard to tell,  let’s call her …  Kimmie K’s age,  due to the amount of “work” she had had done but I’m guessing she would have been under 30. Someone really needs to back away from the Botox and Fillers.

It was Friday afternoon and Kimmie K was dressed like she had a big night of clubbing ahead wearing something that looked not dissimilar to a compression bandage.

 

Jocelyn-Wildenstein-surprised-or-frightened

Kim Kardashian

drag queen

Kimmie K then proceeded to ask me all the important questions like “how long have I been married“? she didn’t want to actually hear the reason I needed to see a doctor and waved her hand in the air dismissing and telling me she didn’t want to read the detailed notes, test results and copies of imaging provided by specialists and my GP in Australia.   All of which are things that require following up by a GP in Canada and are kind of due to happen um only about a month ago when I first made my appointment.

She ignored the fact that in my last month prior to leaving Australia  I had spent more time in Doctors waiting rooms than I had in my entire life having every test under the sun, pap smear, mammogram, skin and mole check, cardiologist,  you name it I had it done and all less than 6 months ago.  I had also had a full physical with a doctor nominated by the Canadian government as part of my visa requirements.

So with her refusing to talk about the problems I ACTUALLY had come to see her about in the first place she told me I would need to go back out to the waiting room and make several more appointments.  Multiple  appointments over different days because she refused to do a longer appointment to discuss them all at one time (her theory is it’s too overwhelming talking about more than 1 ailment per visit).  Talk about overwhelming,  I was finding staring at her drag queen makeup overwhelming.

I would also then require another appointment for a physical and another for a pap smear (no thanks, just had one, you only need one every 2 years and it takes me 2 years to mentally prepare and psych myself into having one) and another for a skin clinic she runs   – 5 separate appointments.  Looking me up and down she told me, “the walk will do me good”  … oh and that  I should “google” the DASH diet.  No run down of the diet, nothing!!!!  If she had of taken the time to listen she would know that part of the reason for our move to Canada was to de-stress and a lifestyle change and I have indeed lost some weight over the last few months.   Is it any wonder people are turning to Dr. Google with assholes like this in practice.  It was at about this point that I had decided if god forbid anything actually was ever really seriously the matter with me this is not the person I would like delivering the news.

She then saw the 8-year-old and asked him all sorts of questions like:

Do you smoke?

Do you drink alcohol?

Do you take street drugs?

At first,  I thought she was joking … but no, Kimmie K had zip personality and even less of a sense of humor.

So basically our allotted 1 hour that we only used half of was used to ask us questions that we could have told the nurse or filled in on a form ourselves.

We left with the Canadian having to make an appointment for a physical (doesn’t need or want one), the 8-year-old being told he needs to come back for an appointment with a copy of his vaccinations from Australia (all up to date and in line with Canada and provided to school when he started) when I suggested I just bring a copy into her in one of my several upcoming appointments Kimmie K shot me down with a short sharp NO!   Clearly she wouldn’t be able to charge that back to the government.

The kicker … all three of us were in and out in 30 minutes total, she was getting paid by Ontario Health for 1 hour.  I suspect Kimmie K wanted us in and out so she could get back to googling eyebrow tattoos.  The next available appointment 4 weeks away!!!!   We walked out with 7 appointments between us all and so far in the future that we could most likely get to Mars quicker.

Less than a meter outside the front door a family meeting was held and it was decided that I would be phoning and cancelling all of those appointments.  Kimmie K would not be becoming our primary family physician.

We walked down the street and into a fresh, clean and fancy walk-in medical clinic.  Despite being called a  walk-in clinic you can’t just walk in you need to actually make an appointment (weird).   I then made an appointment for the next day was given a referral for the scan I required and have since been back to the same doctor twice all in less than a week.   It was decided on my visit with her yesterday that she would take me on as her patient as she is currently accepting new patients on the low down.   I almost jumped out of the seat and hugged her.

It is like winning the lottery, I now have a primary care physician however we can’t share this joy as a family.  This clinic does not accept patients under 18 years of age.   It looks like The Canadian and 8-year-old are still on the hunt for a doctor and if they get sick will use the walk-in clinics (the kind you can’t make an appointment like this one I wrote about Walk-in clinic previously )

I feel lucky that I can live in either Australia or Canada with free and good health care but I get the feeling that some doctors in Toronto might be taking advantage of the billing arrangement with the government in the interest of getting more plastic surgery.  7 appointments is a joke and due to the unnecessary appointments,  it creates a backlog with ridiculous waiting times and making it virtually impossible to find a general practitioner accepting new patients.  It’s a vicious cycle.

 

If you are curious these are some of the difference and similarities between the Canadian and Australian public health care systems.

In Australia it’s simple, every Australian is entitled to a government health care card and it’s called a Medicare Card.  The minute you are born you are issued with a card, the minute you arrive in the country as a permanent resident you are entitled to a card and within days of arriving you can use it.   It doesn’t matter where you live in Australia you can use the card to go to a GP or a Hospital, anywhere even if you are on holiday in a different state.

In Canada, the Health Care Cards are issued by the individual provinces (states) and all have different rules, you can also only use the card in the province that you live.  We live in Ontario and we had to wait for 3 months after we arrived in Canada until we could be issued with a health care card as they have a 3 month waiting period.  If we go over the border to another province in Canada,  for instance, we go and visit the Canadian’s family in Manitoba and one of us get’s the flu we are not covered with our government issued health insurance and would need to pay for our visit.  If you get seriously sick you either need to have travel insurance or some kind of out of province insurance with your private coverage.  WTF??? It’s all the same country!!!  When we first arrived in Canada I needed to see a GP for an annoying cough that I couldn’t shake I didn’t have the Ontario Health Care Card because it was before the 3 months so I was treated like someone that lives out of Ontario and it was $95 for the visit.  At our GP in Australia, the same visit would have cost $73 and the Australian Government would have given me back $37 on the spot back into my account the minute I paid the Doctor.

At our GP in Australia, the same visit would have cost $73 and the Australian Government would have given me back $37 on the spot back into my account the minute I paid the Doctor.  Our GP in Brisbane would sometimes bulk bill, when I was pregnant I did shared care with my GP and the Mater Hospital and so my GP would only charge for every second visit and bulk bill the other so I didn’t pay.   If your GP in Australia refers you for blood tests, X-rays, Ultrasounds they are bulk billed and you don’t pay.

Some doctors in Australia will bulk bill with the card and not charge you anything and others will charge you a fee at the time of your visit and then you get a refund from Medicare for some of the payment.  You can then pay for optional private health insurance with non-government insurance providers.  You can take out additional coverage for Dental, Optical, Private room for a hospital stay, choice of your own specialist or surgeon etc.

In Canada,  it is common for employers to pay for your private health insurance as part of your salary package.  In Australia private health insurance is paid for by individuals.

I just hope neither Canada or Australia goes down the same path as the American Health Care System but I do think they both have room for tweaking.

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Who ya gonna call? Not a GP

  1. While I agree our medical system is in need of some serious tweaking, I suspect the reason you were charged was because you were a newbie to the province. Like Australia, Canadians can utilize our coverage across the country with a few exceptions.

    You can find more info here:
    http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/ohip/outofprovince/travellers.aspx

    So glad you cancelled those appointments with that freak of a doctor. As I was reading of your experience, I was thinking, “RUN as fast as you can!”

    I live just east of Toronto & my experience has been that so much depends on the doctor. I myself, have a doctor, who I can call & usually get in to see within a few days. When I do make an appt, her office is timely & very little waiting time. (15 min max)

    On the other hand, I have friends who can’t get in to see their doctor for a month to 6 weeks & then sit in their waiting room for an hour and a half even though they have made an appointment.

    As far as our clinics & emergency rooms? My recommendation is to bring a tent, a sleeping bag, some food & an advocate!!!! Don’t even get me started!

    1. When we left it became pretty obvious why she was accepting new patients, I doubt many stick around beyond the meet and greet. I wasn’t surprised when I called to cancel the appointments they didn’t even ask why or if I would like to reschedule them.

  2. Thanks for that link Lynn. That makes more sense, I had asked a few people and nobody knew the full story with travelling into other parts of Canada. I think its even more confusing when the private health coverage we have through my husband’s job also states it covers you for out of province visits.

    I got charged the first time I went to the walk-in clinic because I was still waiting for the 3 months waiting period for my Ontario Health Care Card but others that also walked into the medical centre had other province health care cards but they wouldn’t accept them, perhaps they had moved to Toronto and so the other cards are not valid. In hindsight, they most likely had to wait for the waiting period as well.

    Lol re the clinics and emergency rooms, I think Lysol is also a must!

  3. Thanks for this. It’s so great to get an account of the Canadian health system from an outsider. I just wish I’d been able to read it before my appointment with my gp last Monday so I could hug him. Our system does need tweaking and certain pollies (mostly situated on the right) would seem to want to tweak it out of existence but it sounds a hell of a lot better than what you’ve walked into and I have a new appreciation for my doctor. (I’ve been seeing him since he came to the surgery as a fresh faced straight out of university young doctor nearly 40 years ago. I always laugh when I call up for an appointment and I get the question “Have you seen him before?” (He’s very in demand as he used to be the doctor for the local AFL footy club.) “Only since the 1970s,” I say.) But I also like the fact that if I can’t get in to see him and it’s urgent, I can either see one of the other doctors in the clinic or I can walk into any number of other clinics in town and see a doctor. And all I have to do is hand over my Medicare card.

    1. I loved my GP in Australia! I found her when I was pregnant with my son and like your doctor was in demand but if she was away on holidays or we couldn’t get in to see her we liked all the other Doctor’s in the same practice.

      When we left Australia in October I was determined not to say “goodbye” to friends and family only “see you laters” because goodbye was too sad and with so many farewells I would have been a blubbering mess. The only people I ended up breaking down and crying with because I did say goodbyes to them were my Doctor and my Hairdresser. I knew I would most likely never see them again. They have also been the two hardest people to replace in Toronto.

  4. I read this experience with our health care system with absolute horror. Personally, I would be reporting this doctor to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. This is totally unacceptable!! This person is giving doctors in Ontario a bad name.
    http://www.cpso.on.ca/policies-publications/make-a-complaint

    Yes, there are bad doctors, but there are also really good ones. I am sooo sorry your first experience has been so bad.

    We all like to gripe and complain about health care, but I’d like to balance the scale a little bit. I’ve been on the other end where both of my sons REALLY NEEDED the system, and it worked exactly the way I hoped it would.
    When you walk into a hospital emergency room and they take your son IMMEDIATELY without blinking an eye, you have reason to be very concerned. Being taken right away at Emergency is not a good sign.
    Now, if I’m required to wait a few hours, I might be inconvenienced, but I’m also somewhat relieved.

    1. Joanne, Joanne, Joanne remember we are in an apology free zone in this space! … LOL (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

      Thank you so much for that link, I walked out from that first appointment so angry (I think you can tell I started writing the blog post that night and picked it up again this week when I was calmer). I am usually the worst kind of complainer, will bitch to anyone that will listen, friends, family, anyone but always after the event and never speak up as it is happening or leave reviews etc. I was pissed off that a system was being taken advantage of and wanted to complain but had not idea where to go, I will report this doctor and the medical centre.

      Medical professionals are invaluable and do an amazing job, it is such a shame that this Doctor is letting down the profession.

      I should add a postscript, the Doctor at the walk-in centre is awesome. In 2 visits she has had all the testing I required done, results back, discussed and treated, signed me up as a permanent patient and told me that she won’t need to see me again until my script runs out.

      I love her! It’s the way it should be and I’m sure is most of the time.

      The clinic is clean and modern with lots of other services in the same office, massage, chiropractor, blood tests, acupuncture, physio, orthotics, pharmacy and it’s open 7 days (none of this was available within my GP office in Australia, I would need to go to other practices)

      My faith has been restored and I’m sure if in a worst case scenario if we presented at a hospital the service would be superior.

      1. Yay! I’m so happy your followup experience restored your faith in our less than perfect system.

        Don’t get me wrong … I complain with the best of them. Some of the stuff – like inter-provincial disparities – drives me crazy.

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