When I first started this blog, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have been off work for a few months for medical reasons, and I realized during that time that I actually missed writing. Also, being a patient again reminded me how much goes on in medical care that the average patient may not realize. Although the Canadian system is not perfect, it does allow for timely access when needed. We just need to know who to ask for help.
A good example of this is access to MRI.
I hurt myself, and one of the ways to investigate it is an MRI. First I had to see my GP, who than referred me to a specialist. The specialist agreed with my GP and order the MRI. The request was sent in, and I received a letter from the hospital, with a date for my MRI six months later. I was reminded to keep my appointment, because of long waiting lists, if I no longer needed this test by the time it came around, I should phone an cancel so that someone else could use that appointment time. This seemed like a long wait, particularly because it was part of the problem that was keeping from work. I called the department, and asked if there was anyway to get an earlier appointment. I was placed on a cancellation list. I was a little unusual, in that I could be available in less than 30 minutes for the MRI because I worked in the hospital. Lucky for me, within two weeks of returning to work, I was given an earlier time and had my pictures taken. Unfortunately, there is a delay in reading the MRI because it is a specialized joint that needs to be looked out. The radiologist with the most experience was gone and wouldn’t be back for a week. Doesn’t matter, I will still able to get my answers quickly. I will admit to letting the booking clerk know that I was a physician at the hospital, but I like to think that this cancellation list is available to all patients. Overall, it took 12 weeks to figure out what was wrong and get me totally back to work.
However, when needed, MRI’s can be accessed more quickly. I have had several patients in the last year who had complicated pregnancies – either concerns about invasive placentas, unusual locations of placenta or fetal brain anomalies. In all of these cases, I was able to advocate for my patients and arrange the MRI’s quickly. This is because it clinically made a difference to know immediately what the concern was, as opposed to my joint pain, which really could wait. Although we live in a society of instantaneous gratification, it is hard to remember that there are many patients in the system who are sicker and have more urgent needs than you. Those who have urgent need are treated urgently. And there was no additional cost to these families to have the testing done rapidly. We were able to save one baby, unfortunately confirm that one was beyond our ability to help and to give the final family a clearer picture of the diagnosis their baby faced so they could determine the best course of action for themselves.
Would I have preferred to get my MRI sooner? Absolutely!!
Would I have wanted my MRI to be done at the expense of someone else with a more urgent need? Absolutely not!!
The Canadian system is far from perfect, but it treats people according to the severity and acuity of their condition. Unless we are willing to pay more to have greater access for less urgent conditions, we should be happy with the care we get. I am thankful that my MRI was covered, but I am more thankful that my patient’s MRI’s were also covered and that our system allowed for me to arrange them in the appropriate time frame.