Thursday, 3 November 2011

Why we hate our family doctors

For twenty years, I had a family doctor whom I absolutely adored.

He was a Franco-Ontarian, movie star handsome, soft-spoken and caring. He ran a small practice on Dalhousie Street in Ottawa, as well as a couple of satellite clinics in Bourgette and Clarence Creek.

When he closed his Ottawa practice, I used to drive out to the country to see him because I loved him. He did more than check my vitals; he listened.

About five years ago, Dr. Jacques decided to cut back. He said he'd had it with the long hours and the paperwork, and was ultimately going to retire. Because I had stopped seeing him on a frequent basis, I was being cut as a patient.

I was mortified.

I was able to find another doctor, the one I lovingly refer to as The Worst Family Doctor in Ontario. He's not really THE WORST, I suspect, but he certainly doesn't live up to the standards that Dr. Jacques maintained.

I think it's a big problem for my generation, the patients who grew up with the Marcus Welby model of medicine. The doctors who delivered us were expected to keep unreasonable hours and have a super-human commitment to their patients. Some of them delivered our own parents, and then delivered us.

Doctors today still work hard and keep long hours, but they aren't willing to sacrifice the way the previous generation of doctors did. They aren't much different than the general population these days who don't have the same loyalty to their employers and their work as people once did.

I worked in medicine for several years, and got to know a lot of doctors -- mostly specialists -- and I see the difference between the older doctors and the ones coming up. The residents and newbies want to live in nicer locales, they want more time with their families, they want more money for less work.

Unfortunately, they are working in very difficult times. There aren't enough doctors for patients, their clientele are less grateful and more willing to challenge them, partly because today's patients are more knowledgeable about health care, thanks to the Internet and the media.

Doctors no longer garner the kind of respect they once did.

We once revered our doctors and had unwavering belief in them. Now, armed with some knowledge of our own, we realize that doctors don't know everything. We read about how doctors make gigantic mistakes costing people their lives, how doctors like the disgraced Toronto coroner, Charles Smith, have ruined people's lives with their ineptitude. About sexual abuse on patients. About doctors, like one, here in Ottawa who put patient's lives at risk by not following proper infection control procedures.

And we don't like it one bit.

There's a disconnect today between patients and doctors.

And it's not going to get any better soon.

There aren't enough doctors to go around. Patients are frustrated with a system that is broken.

The age of Dr. Welby is long gone.

It's sort of like the decline of the family dinner, once lovingly prepared and served.

Now, we just have to settle for fast food medicine.

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