Monday, June 14, 2010

Pushing past (musings on finding a doctor)

Today I found us a doctor.

It's been months since our doctor fired us. He fired us because I didn't follow his vaccination schedule after he wouldn't answer my questions about it. He fired us because I once got a second opinion that he didn't sanction. He fired us because I went to a walk in clinic once when he was closed. He fired us because his receptionist only answers the phone for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon, during which time it's constantly a  busy signal, so I eventually gave up trying to find out when the appointment I'd misplaced actually was, and thus missed it. He fired us because he doesn't like me.

He didn't talk with us about it. He didn't even follow the prescribed guidelines of his own College of Physicians. He had his receptionist send us a form letter with no notice and not reason given, saying that he was not providing care for me and my two kids any more. My husband was excluded from the firing. It was personal.

He is not a doctor I want to work with. He is not a person I enjoyed interacting with. He did not have any interest in partnering on our health care, didn't bother to remember anything about us from visit to visit, and didn't even follow up on tests he himself had ordered. He didn't appreciate questions and actively discouraged me from doing any research on my own. He was impossible to reach, hard to deal with, and overall, just a bad match.

When I think about it, I should have been glad to have permission to find another doctor - you must understand that in Ontario, no doctor is PERMITTED to take you on if you already have a family doctor, period, for any reason. I never liked dealing with him, I never felt that my health or that of my family was cared for. He was not, actually, "better than no one."

Yet when I got that letter, I felt bitter shame along with my anger. I felt like a victim who blames herself. I shouldn't have asked so many questions! Why did I always try to bring up more than one health concern when the sign clearly stated that he would only deal with ONE problem per visit? (surely, problems can't possibly be related?!?) If I'd only taken time off work to go into the office to get the date for that appointment after several days of failing to get through on the phone. It's my fault. Guilty. Bad mother. Bad patient. Bad me.


Not completely. I knew he's not the doctor for me, that he acted unprofessionally, that he made no effort at all for this doctor-patient relationship. Still. Ashamed. And afraid, He had all the power, since there have not been any doctors taking patients in our city for a very long time. And he used it.

I don't think I really accepted what had happened, even when I was sitting in the walk-in clinic for hours with my daughter, even when I found myself without anywhere to turn for my own health issues. I couldn't bring myself to action. I looked up the procedure he should have followed, but didn't issue a complaint. I looked for a new doctor with the local chamber, but accepted the answer that none were taking patients in my area. I did not exhaust every opportunity. I did not start camping on doctors' doorsteps begging them to take me. I did not do anything at all. For months. Except seethe every time I thought about it.

I am a take-action kind of person. And I did nothing. I accepted my role as the victim. I accepted my punishment in the long waits and the lack of care. What the hell?

Yesterday, after a hellish 36 hours of illness, after I managed to keep down a very small meal and gained enough strength to sit at a computer, I looked up doctors in my area. I found a doctor working for a "health network" that sounded promising in their approach to patient care. Of course, they were not taking patients, but this time, I decided to try. This morning I called.

Their message said "Please note this new information - we are pleased to announce that Dr. --- is joining our practice on August 3rd. Registration will be at our office on a first come, first served basis this week only." I'm still pretty sick, but I put my hair in a ponytail, threw on some clothes, and drove over. It took everything out of me today, but on August 3rd, we will have a doctor. It's only Monday, and we were patients 94, 95 and 96. By Wednesday, his practice will be full.

Was it because I was so sick? What made me take action today, when last week or next week the same call would have resulted in the usual "not accepting new patients" answer?

I'm still blocked. I still don't seem able to dig deeper into the fears and beliefs that kept me inert in rejection and almost hateful anger all these months. What changed?

Maybe I'm finished being a victim.

What I do know is this - we will have a family doctor. He can't be any worse. All signs point to better. And I feel sorry for the sad little man who doesn't have enough professional respect for himself to treat an active patient with respect, or any patient as a whole person. I haven't quite let go of my anger, but in taking action, I've let go of my shame. I can begin to move on.