Desperately Seeking a Doctor.

Over the weekend, sitting relaxing and watching the Ice Hockey (it’s the only bloody thing that is ever on TV in this home and drives me nuts) the 8-year-old thrust a foot in my face and asked, “is it normal that this thing I have had for ages has turned black?”

Over 3 months ago the 8-year-old had complained about a growth on his foot that hurt,  it looked a bit nasty but he wasn’t clear if he had stepped on something and perhaps had a little splinter or maybe a piece of glass in it or if it was just something caused by his refusal to give up much-loved shoes even when his toes and heels are hanging over the edges.  We treated it with antiseptic for a couple of days and then Mother of the Year forgot all about it.

I had to agree it was looking nasty so immediately consulted Dr Google.  After several searches on google images (best done on an empty stomach) I had concluded it was indeed skin cancer.  The Canadian also holds a medical degree from the University of Google and concurred it was indeed something sinister like Skin Cancer.

Normally I would just go into a Pharmacy and ask the pharmacist about it (or stick my head over the fence because at our old house we lived next door to not one but two pharmacists) but the fact he had it so long, the shape and the colour had changed so much and having come from Australia that has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world made we want to check it out with a Doctor.   The only problem?  We don’t actually have a family GP anymore and I need to find one!

The healthcare system in Canada is different to Australia and tricky to navigate.  Just like Australia much of it is funded by taxes and you can then get different levels of private coverage, often the private coverage in Canada is paid for by an employer.  Unlike Australia where all residents are entitled to a national Medicare Card that you can use Australia wide regardless of where you live, in Canada, the different provinces administer and control their own systems and you can only use the services of that province.   We are living in Ontario so when we arrived we needed to apply for Ontario Health Care cards and unlike Australia where they issue new residents a Medicare Card the minute you have residency in Ontario you need to wait 3 months before you are eligible for coverage.  We took out travel insurance before leaving Australia for coverage until we could receive our cards.

Once you get the health care card you are only covered in your province that you live in so that means that if we leave Ontario and travel in other parts of Canada you need to take out travel insurance in case something series happens or if you need to go into a GP you pay for the visit, if you have private coverage sometimes it will include coverage for travel within Canada.

The Canadian and 8-year-old have recently received their Health Care Cards as they are both Citizens and the waiting period is dated from the date you arrive in Canada, as I did not get permanent residency until we had been in Canada for a couple of weeks,  you can read about it here:  Residency Visa I am still a couple of weeks away from getting my card.

The Health Care Card means for a GP visit you don’t pay.  When we first arrived I needed to see a GP for a prescription, I turned to my friend google and looked for a Doctor open on a Saturday in downtown Toronto, made an appointment for that day, turned up, and not having my Health Care Card as yet, was advised I needed to pay $90.00 and walked straight in to see a Doctor.  Prescription in hand I then went next door and handed over the prescription along with our private health coverage card provided by husbands employer and basically paid nothing for the prescription.  I asked the pharmacist about getting flu shots (it was pre-flu season) and he advised he can’t charge for them as they are provided free by the government and we needed Ontario Health Cards, when he heard that we wouldn’t be getting these until after flu season he kindly offered to give the 3 of us the shots and we would just need to return with our cards once we had them so he could claim them back from the government.

I left our first Dr’s visit naively thinking how amazing the Canadian health care system is and wondered about the private health insurance we had always had back in Australia and paid a small fortune for each month but had never once put in a claim or used.   We didn’t have any extras attached to our insurance like dental, optical etc as we had pulled out of extras years ago when our premium’s went through the roof and figured it was just cheaper to pay for an annual dental visit than paying for it each month in the premium.  I’m still not exactly sure what it is we paid for with our private health insurance back in Australia.

Yesterday I was hit with the actual reality of the Ontario Health System.   Only last week I had read two different blog posts by expat bloggers I follow that had moved to Canada and had bad experiences with the system.  I had also learnt from one of them that you can’t just look up a GP and phone and make an appointment.   It turns out there are two different types of GP practices, a traditional family GP set up or the other type is called a Walk-In clinic.   If looking for a Family GP you need to find one that is accepting new patients and this can be really difficult.  If you do manage to find one and get on the books of the practice it can then take weeks to get an appointment.  One blogger had to see a GP urgently and as she couldn’t get an appointment with her regular Doctor for almost 2 weeks made an appointment at a clinic to be reprimanded by the Doctor she saw for not seeing her regular GP.

I phoned the walk in clinic we had been to when we first arrived and asked to make an appointment for my son, “I’m sorry we can’t make an appointment if he is under 18” …. Strange I thought but asked if they could recommend a Doctor in the area I could take him?

I phoned the place recommended and was told it’s a walk in clinic and appointments can’t me be made, first in first served.  I picked up the 8-year-old from school and walked the short 5-minute walk to the clinic where I was told it would be a two hour plus wait to see a Doctor.  WTF!  The receptionist advised it was best to wait in the waiting room because despite having many ahead of us if someone isn’t in the waiting room and their name is called then they go to the next on the list so we may get in quicker.

We took a seat and man,  was this place ever skanky, the previous walk in clinic we had been too was new, high tech and shiny.  This place was a dump and I suspect someone had indeed taken a dump because when one particular gentleman got called in for his turn the receptionist promptly went over to the seat he was sitting and disinfected it.

Sitting in the waiting room and the walls are plastered with the following signs


The second sign started to throw me, why was the wait going to be so long when it looks like the Doctors don’t prescribe anything half the people in the waiting room look like they are after.  Can they not READ?

We watched a homeless guy and his lady friend come in and ask if they can clean the front windows, given the go ahead he proceeded to light up his cigarette in the waiting room before finishing it outside.

Despite another 4 hours until the practice was due to close a homemade sign was put up on the door saying “closed for the day and no more patience accepted”

After an Hour and 1/2 we got ushered into one of the rooms and waited for the Doctor where the receptionist had just finished disinfecting the seat again after Mr Shitty Pants.

The diagnosis?  A wart that was promptly treated with Liquid Nitrogen, the best bit?  We get to do it all over again next week as the Doctor needs another session with it!

Best I look for a family GP ASAP!

Post Script …. 3 days later we both got sick and I am no Forensic Scientist but I’m sure the Walk- In Clinic was the source of our lurgy!




  • Holly

    Ugh, I know how hard it is! I have sat In that same waiting room at a walk in clinic on a couple of occasions as an expat – only before I had to pay $60 for the privilege because I didn’t have my health card until last week! Best of luck in the doctor search!

  • TheLastWord

    I remember being a few days short of my health card and being so sick, that the boarding school where I lived called an ambulance to take me to hospital. The school and the hospital share a boundary wall….. I got billed on my credit card and then had to get a reimbursement a couple of weeks later.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: