Was it Something I Said?


Deep breath, Banshee…

Even casual conversations about health care are a dicey business.  I know that.  And being an ex-pat American living in Canada makes it even dicier.  I took the world’s best healthcare for granted until I moved to Canada – yes, I was one of the extremely lucky Americans who always had an excellent healthcare package through my job.  If I needed something, I called my doctor, got in to see him/her right away, and got on with my life.  I didn’t miss entire days of work waiting in a clinic or an emergency room nor did I waste countless hours calling around trying to find a doctor who took new patients.

From 2002 until 2006, my family went without a regular family physician here in Canada.  There were none.  If I drove by a clinic that had a “taking new patients” sign, I’d cross lanes, block traffic and perform other unsafe manoeuver to get to it.  When we  finally found someone who was taking new patients, we’d get one appointment and then be told  Dr. So-and-So was moving to Saskatoon, or Lethbridge, or Dubai.  I began interrogating doctors, “So, are you planning on moving, retiring, going into the Witness Protection Program, dying, or winning the lottery in the next 2 years?” 

In Calgary, procedures of all kinds, major or minor, had waiting lists.  Women went out-of-town to have their babies, sometimes driving up to 2 hours away for an OB/GYN appointment.

Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is not in much better shape.  The only difference here is that we have at least half a dozen hospitals to choose from in a 5 mile radius.  Because here, an Emergency Room visit is often the only way to get seen…by anyone.  We thought we had a lovely family doctor  only to find out that she left rather suddenly right before Christmas.  There was no warning, no letter, no notification from her office.  Gone.  Was it something I said?  Oh, I forgot to ask the Witness Protection question…

So now my daughter needs a diagnostic ultrasound on her shoulder and I have no doctor to write the actual referral.  I feel like I’m constantly chasing my tail and when it comes to my family’s health, this is not only frustrating  but scary.  I just got off the phone with the clinic.  They have one doctor left who is taking new patients…I’m trying not to picture the kid who gets picked last for the sports teams in gym…and I asked the receptionist (who told me this doctor is very nice):  “Do you have her chained to a desk so she can’t leave?”

She laughed.  So did I.  Then we both said at the same time, “It’s really not funny is it?”  No.  It’s not.


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