Doctor shortage leads some to look for alternatives
It's supposed to be the place people go for urgent medical care, but with a shortage of family physicians in Canada, more and more people are turning to the emergency room for basic care.
"We find that difficult. They have no physician so they come in emergency. Every person should have access to emergency care a physician or provider, versus using walk in clinics or emergency," explained Dr. Chris Carruthers of the Ottawa Hospital.
But the reality is, more than a million Ontarians have no other option because they don't have a family doctor.
Dr. Eric Jackson provides an alternative to the emergency room, but he's not a family doctor; he's a chiropractor and his fees are not covered by OHIP.
"I don't often see patients coming in with eye issues or with cardiovascular issues, they come to me for musculoskeletal neurological issues," he said. "A lot of times patients have had difficulty getting in to see their family doctors or would select a chiropractor as opposed to going to a hospital and emergency."
As the shortage worsens, Dr. Jackson said he expects more people will come to rely on him. He admits, however, that some illnesses require the attention of a family physician or a specialist.
But finding one, especially in the Ottawa region, isn't easy.
Just ask Claudia Oprea. Her doctor left his practice three years ago and she's been on the hunt for a new physician ever since.
When she started to have numbness and migraines, she visited a walk-in clinic and found out she had blood clots.
"I could have died," she said.
In order to find a family doctor, Oprea put some of CTV's tips on how to find a doctor to the test.
First, she tried the College of Physicians and Surgeons website to search for doctors her area. But she found some of the pages were out of date. One doctor on the list was not even practicing family medicine, but rather as a hair-transplant specialist.
Oprea then tried going to a walk-in clinic where she found a doctor was accepting new patients.
"He's a new doctor right now at the Appletree clinic and he asked me if I would like to sign in for him to be my physician," she said. "I was so ecstatic. I was so happy. I am relieved because now I know I have a physician and I know where to go and emergencies or no emergencies or just for regular checkup."
Finally, after three years without a doctor, she found one. But Oprea is one of the lucky ones. In a province short 2,000 doctors, not everyone will be successful.
Oprea says what helped her cope was something no doctor could prescribe: persistence and a lot of patience.
Tips to help your search for a doctor:
-Ask your friends and family if their doctor is accepting new patients
-Call walk-in clinics. Some might be taking new patients.
-If they're not, ask if you can be added to a waiting list.
-Community health centres are another option. If they're not accepting new patients, they might be able to refer you elsewhere.
-Visit the website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The site allows you to search for doctors in your area.
With a report from CTV's Aliya Jiwan