Jumping the line
Physician independence cannot trump right of those who pay to be treated fairly
Question: When is a “waiting list” not a waiting list?
Answer: When you don’t actually have to wait.
A couple of years ago, through no fault of my own, I found myself without a family doctor. This meant, of course, that I would have to join the many people on the infamous “patient registry” and wait my turn.
I made peace with my situation. I was in pretty good health, and on the other side of the coin, I am at that stage in life where I watch many of my contemporaries pass on, so I might never get off the list anyway.
(I was not prepared for the second-class medical treatment I was going to get — something for a second article — but otherwise I accepted my lot).
Still and all, not having a family physician can kind of bubble up as a concern from time to time. There have been times when I have thought that it would be great if I could contact one physician I know slightly, or possibly have my wife ask her doc if there was any possibility of being taken on as a patient, but of course, in an egalitarian system where people must wait their turn to rise to the top of the registry, such things are not possible. Right? Wrong. My research on wait times sent me to, of all places, a web page maintained by the P.E.I. Association of Newcomers, dealing with medical care.
Did I find something like: “There is usually a waiting list for a family clinician in P.E.I. so please be patient”? No. What I found was: “There is usually a waiting list for a family clinician in P.E.I. After you are registered, you might be able to find one sooner if you:
Ask friends or relatives to check with their family doctor or nurse practitioner if he or she is taking new patients;
Look in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book under ‘Physicians’ or ‘Nurse Practitioners’ and contact them directly;
Ask any general practitioner with whom you come in contact if he or she is taking new patients.”
As it happens, I was in the middle of a correspondence with the new minister. I asked him if what I have quoted above was the case, and he confirmed that it was.
He cited the independence of individual physicians and the lack of government control over this independence.
This is simply unacceptable. Every time someone jumps the line, those of us who are on the registry effectively move backward.
If we are going to maintain a public, egalitarian system of health care delivery, then physician independence cannot trump the right of those who pay for the system to be treated fairly. And line jumping is not fair. (And if nothing else, it puts vulnerable people into a kind of competition, sort of like rats scrabbling over the few pieces of flotsam as the ship goes down).
Clearly, our public, egalitarian system requires the government to act. Quickly.