Is there a doctor?

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What an ordeal it is here in Montreal, to get medical assistance and most importantly to find a good doctor. It is unbelievable, seriously.
Coming from the US where we had the best medical insurance and were able to go to generalists and specialists as we pleased (maybe we overdid, but why not?) and being reimbursed pretty much 100%, it is a pretty brutal shock to have to struggle with that in Quebec. We were warned, but you never believe exactly what people tell you until you experience it yourself.
As we heard, it happens to be quite impossible to get a general practitioner to agree to be your family doctor. Having a child, it is crucial for me to have a health professional who can take care of not only me, but also my daughter and my husband. I think it’s important to have one reference, one person who has all our information on file and can pull it up anytime.
We can’t seem to find that here…yet.

What we found instead is somewhat concerning to me. We chose a medical clinic among others here in town. You basically can’t make an appointment unless it’s a follow-up or you have already been referred to a specialist. Until then, you are a number. We’ve had the opportunity to visit a few times for myself and my daughter. You go in as early as 8 a.m. but they don’t open before 9 a.m. You get in line (which is already substantial by 8:15) and wait for the front desk to open. Once they start taking patients, you get a number and basically wait for your turn. I should mention there’s usually only one or maybe two doctors so, it makes for a long day, and you think twice before consulting. I’ve had to wait 6-7 hours before. It’s lovely, who wouldn’t want to wait in a germ-filled room surrounded by sick people who don’t give a crap about sanitizing their snotty hands? And to top it all, we, as non-residents, pay the humongous amount of CA$120 per visit (with only half refunded by our insurance). Yep, you read that right. It’s mind-boggling.

Thank goodness, at least, there’s an alternative to the long wait. They have an automated call center. You basically enter your phone number and scan your patient number in a machine that looks like an ATM. Three bucks or so later, you can leave and the automatic system will give you three calls or send you three texts to keep you posted on the progress. First call with 7 patients ahead of you, second call with 5, and last call with 2. Handy.

Still, it’s a very smurfing long time to see a doctor. And 5 minutes is about the most time they dedicated to me. It’s crazy. I just don’t get it.

If only you got good care every time you go, if only you were amazed by the overall experience, it might be worth the wait and the money… but it is SO NOT!

We’ve only met ONE good doctor. ONE.

The first time, I didn’t understand a thing this lady was saying. She was 100 years old and her French was…well, I don’t think she was speaking French after all. She didn’t tell me anything new and sent me on my way with a nose spray. Thanks! She said to come back if my symptoms persisted; she would then refer me to a specialist.
One week later, I call for a follow-up and the response went something like that: “Sorry, I don’t have a schedule for this doctor, you’ll have to see another doctor.” No pre-made appointment possible, no follow-up discounted fee either. What? Are you serious?
Went back and paid another $120 for JUST a referral to a specialist.

The next time, I had no choice but to go to this medical clinic to renew what most women my age use: the pill.
That day, I had to pay again $120 to be in and out of their office within 3 minutes and get a prescription.

The only time I had to take my daughter in for some weird skin rash, I really liked the doctor we dealt with, so I asked him: “how do I get you to become my family physician?”
He laughed and said: “oh, you’re cute…but I can’t. There is a big shortage of physicians in Quebec so we have to be very picky when it comes to selecting our patients. You are young and healthy so I don’t see a reason for it. But if you called me tomorrow morning and told me you had breast cancer, I would take care of you right away.”

So that’s how it works. It’s got nothing to do with who you are or where you’re from (what you do, as long as you…ha!). That’s just the way it is. As opposed to France and the US also, there is clearly no abuse when it comes to care (medicines and over going to the doctor). There’s a 24h 811 hotline everybody uses here where you can talk to nurses who are very knowledgeable. I guess it’s not a bad thing to take it easy and not rush to overcrowd the medical office, but, to me, the problem arises when I think of my daughter’s well-being. I need answers right away when something unusual worries me and she doesn’t feel well.

Would this make you think twice about coming here? What’s your take on this?

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