Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The small town clinic: another country perk

Yesterday a friend helped yank me out of a rut of procrastination. I have been going to the same family clinic for 26 years. I was born into it, and never needed to go elsewhere. More to the point, few clinics in the city are accepting new patients nowadays. So, my options were limited anyhow. However, a creeping discontent has been setting in these past few years, as our family grows and I have had to frequent the clinic on a more regular basis. I've noticed:

*The clinic is a resident's training ground. Med. students from Ottawa University all filter through the clinic to gain experience before continuing on. They stay, on average, for a half-year, and then pack up and move on. An average appointment involves slow, methodical, by-the-book examinations, many long drawn-out by-the-book questioning and then an "excuse me while I run next door to speak with my supervisor." I have come away from an appointment, on several occasions, feeling as though I have wasted a good hour and gotten nowhere.
*This state of constant turn-over means that my children's medical history is only a series of files tucked away in a drawer. They rarely see the same doctor twice in a row. No one knows them by name. "So you're Mrs. . . .?" "And this must be . . . ?" No one has invested time in their well being. Perhaps, most importantly, my children are greeted by a stranger when they are at their most vulnerable, needing comfort and familiarity.
*Bits if information get lost or misfiled. It once took a team of nurses to try and piece together my sons immunization record because the various doctors who had dealt with him over the years had left his file a mess.
*Who feels secure in the face of such disconnect?

I'm looking for stability. And yesterday I may have found it.

Gabriel has had chronic bouts of strep throat since babyhood. He starts with an uncharacteristically grouchy day, winds up with a high fever that can't be brought down for more than an hour, develops a rash all over his body, and stops wanting to eat because it hurts to swallow. All of these things were present and accounted for yesterday, but when I called our clinic they wouldn't see him until the end of the afternoon.
If left to myself, I would have sighed, booked the appointment and slogged into the city during nap time and wrestle a miserable boy through city traffic to a $15 parking lot to be seen by a stranger. Instead, I had a friend staying with us for the weekend who simply grabbed the laptop, clicked on a few websites and made a call to the local hospital. "Hi, where would I bring a sick little boy around here?"
Just like that we discovered that the clinic has a new doctor, now accepting new patients, and an emergency room ready to take an unwell boy. We packed a snack and two boys into the car, drove for ten minutes, signed in with a friendly secretary, and waited a grand total of 15 minutes before Gabriel's name was called. . . unbelievable. The doctor who saw him happened to be the very same one accepting new patients. We chatted and exchanged info. In and out under an hour with a prescription in hand and perhaps a new clinic for me and my family .
The whole experience was made brighter still by a $2 parking fee, a Pharmacy right down the road and a stop in for fresh cookies and coffee at a local bakery.

Yeah! The funnest sick day ever! I'm not sure Gabriel would agree, would he certainly enjoyed his cookie.