Without a family doctor? Doctors offer short-term solutions

The dose28:10How can I take charge of my health without a family doctor?

Millions of Canadians do not have a family doctor or primary care provider. Dr. Peter Lin, family physician and director of the Canadian Center for Heart Research, explains how people can take charge of their health when they are in between or looking for a primary care provider.

Millions of Canadians do not have a family doctorand with long waits in the emergency room and walk-in clinicsmany wonder where they can get the care they need.

So how can people ensure their health is taken care of when they don’t have a regular primary care provider?

There is no single answer, as individual health needs are complex and can vary depending on factors such as age, family history and any existing chronic conditions. The first piece of advice is not to give up on finding a family doctor, as many doctors agree that people should have a family doctor or primary care provider.

“We need this continuity of care to make sure you don’t get in trouble,” Dr. Peter Lin, a family physician in Toronto and director of the Canadian Center for Heart Research, told Dr. Brian Goldman on The dose.

“Family physicians…primary care [providers]nurse practitioners…are really good at pattern recognition to try to figure out what’s going on and put the pieces together.”

Family doctors say there are ways people can take care of themselves in the short term, but they should keep looking for a primary care provider.

“Even if you’re healthy, you should seek out a family doctor because you don’t know when you’re going to get sick,” said Dr. Yvette Lu, a community family doctor who works in Surrey, B.C. .

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How do I find a family doctor who is accepting patients?

Doctors say there are several ways to find a family doctor, as the process can vary from province to province.

Lin suggests people start by asking family or friends if their doctor is accepting new patients.

If that’s not an option, he suggests looking for clinics and physician groups that are always accepting new patients. on the website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons in their province or territory or any other regulatory body.

Depending on where you live, there may be specific services available for finding a family doctor.

For example, in British Columbia, a province where almost a million inhabitants do not have a family doctor – the website Pathways Medical Directory is an option to help find a supplier, Lu said.

In Ontario, residents can sign up for Health Care Connect, a service that connects someone with a nurse who “will find a doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients in your community,” according to the province’s website.

Lu says the provincial hotline that exists in many provinces — call 811 in British Columbia and Alberta — can also help people access services in their community.

Sometimes specialists can also recommend a doctor willing to treat you as a patient, she said.

And be sure to ask if a local clinic has a waiting list, Lu said.

“It’s important to remember that sometimes places open up because people are moving away or leaving a practice for other reasons,” she said. “So even if a practice is closed, it’s worth checking in from time to time to see if they’re accepting new patients.”

When should I go to the emergency room if I don’t have a family doctor?

If there is a medical emergency, such as if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain or excessive bleeding, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, advises Dr. Rita McCracken, family physician and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. family medicine department.

If in the past three to six months you have had problems such as unintentional weight loss of more than 10 pounds, profuse night sweats, blood in your stool or urine, or a breast lump, she will tell you advises to consult a doctor within two weeks.

Most provinces and territories have a 24/7 service that connects people with a nurse or other qualified professional to advise them on health issues and health information.

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What about walk-in visits or emergency primary care centers?

Depending on where a person lives, walk-in clinics or primary care centers may also be options, Lin said.

He advises people to come prepared when visiting a walk-in clinic by having a list of their recent medications, illnesses or diagnoses, and new symptoms. He said it might help the doctor.

“They try to make decisions quickly,” Lin said, and to do that it’s best to be able to “immediately have all the information available to them.”

In some provinces, community health centers are also an option. And there are also virtual clinics, McCracken said.

“While expectations may be high in some areas, you can get in,” she said.

A walk-in medical clinic is seen in Cobequid, NS. When patients visit walk-in clinics, doctors advise them to bring a list of their medications along with any recent illnesses or diagnoses and any new symptoms. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

How can I stay healthy without a family doctor?

There are ways to take charge of your health while seeking a family doctor.

McCracken’s main suggestion is to keep up to date with vaccinations, whether it’s routine vaccinations like the flu shot or COVID-19 vaccines.

“To the best of my knowledge, anywhere in Canada, you can access vaccines in ways other than your family doctor. So either through public health or through pharmacies,” she said.

She also recommends people wash their hands and wear a mask around sick people and says more practical advice can help people maintain their health.

“All the things our moms and grandmothers told us: stay hydrated, wear your seatbelt, floss, don’t drink too much alcohol or smoke other things, get enough sleep, make more friends and find a hobby.. It’s all actually linked to better health outcomes,” she said.

Lin said quitting smoking, managing your weight and eating healthy are also important factors for your health.

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How can I get a routine screening?

Depending on your age, there are recommended routine screening tests you can perform.

McCracken said if you have a cervix, a Pap test is essential to do every three years if you have no symptoms. In British Columbia, you don’t need a family doctor to get tested, she said.

Lin acknowledges that it can be difficult to perform these routine tests without a primary care provider. He suggests visiting walk-in clinics to help get a referral.

“This is where you, as the person in charge of your health, will have to figure out what tests you need to do because you don’t have a family doctor as a quarterback for you,” he said. he declared, noting that the organizations for specific cancers and diseases often have websites that explain when people should get screened.

Some provinces also have self-referral for some cancer screening tests. Lin recommends contacting your provincial cancer care agency to find out.

He also recommends checking your blood pressure regularly at a local pharmacy and tracking the results.

If people turn to walk-in clinics for follow-up care, Lu suggests going to the same clinic each time, as doctors will often work regular shifts at these clinics.

“If you go to the same walk-in clinic or the same urgent care clinic, they will have your records, which will make it easier for the doctor who sees you to take care of you,” he said. she stated.

What about medical records?

It’s important for patients to get copies of their test results or other health records, ideally in digital format, Lin said. Lu agrees that it can help doctors better understand a patient’s medical history.

“If you end up going to different walk-in clinics, you will always have a copy of, say, an ultrasound you did,” she said, adding that sometimes these tests also advise patients to follow up in six months. or a year.

She says patients can make note of this follow-up date by scheduling it into their phone or calendar.

“Don’t rely on the doctor to call you,” she said.

McCracken’s parting advice to those who don’t have a family doctor is to write a letter to their political representatives.

“If you really want this to change, put your story on paper and send it to your MPP and your MP and demand that we get funding and evidence-based solutions to solve the primary care crisis once for all. everything.”

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