Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Time Warp

I've had a few health issues in the last wee while. Minor, I should hasten to add.

It was time to find a local doctor.

I asked my friends and had various recommendations – but some of their doctors were full to the maximum and I've always had to feel that personal 'click' with a doctor. Simpatico, empathy, humanity, compassion, you name it.

About five summers ago I had taken a neighbour child to her family doctor when she fell ill and her grandparents had gone to town leaving her in my care.

I was blown away by this doctor and asked at the time, if he could take me on. He regretfully told me he didn't have room for an additional patient.

In the last few months I've had several calls from his wife who was on the same page of protest and activism as I was when it came to getting high speed for our area and had read my columns in the paper on this topic.

Yesterday I called her and asked her if I could get in with her husband, the doctor I had liked so much 5 years ago.

No problem at all, you're in, she said. Today was my first appointment.

I was greeted warmly at the door as before and led into this extraordinary light filled clinic overlooking their lavish gardens which has a wooden hand-carved roll-top desk, wooden cabinets, wooden examining table and floor to ceiling medical books.

The doctor and I then proceeded to talk Newfoundland history, motorbikes, the never ending trips one can take in this magical province, archaeology, family history, organic gardening, how you build your own cabin. That took 45 minutes. He then extracted medical history from me and examined me while discussing family diseases and our adult children.

We then surveyed a map of Newfoundland and he pointed out places I should visit where, long before Cris Columbus sailed for America, a whaling station was established in Northern Newfoundland and a dig has discovered the bones of the boats and the whales perfectly preserved in sub-zero temperatures.

My mouth must have been hanging open when he handed me scrips for 2 prescriptions and a requisition for my local clinic to get some blood work on me and a further requisition for a specialist appointment.

“Oh you're surprised at the time I took,” he said. “I do this with everyone. I only see 20 patients a day. I believe in personal service. I am not running a factory. My computer is in the basement where it should be. I simply love my work.”

I pinched myself all the way out to my car.

People: this is a real doctor in a real world. I am still gob-smacked.


  1. You are so lucky! Here, doctors are whittling their practices from 3000 to 600 patients while demanding $1500 a year up front. We have health insurance, but can't afford that extra fee. I want a doctor like yours who gives good health advice because it's his job. We're looking for such a doctor...

  2. I am so jealous! Keep him and treasure him!

  3. I want an impersonal doctor: a robot would suit me just fine.
    Particularly if there is a need to bare my private flesh, confess to bad habits, or have procedures such as a, I don't want a friend there for any of the above.

  4. I'm gob-smacked too. He's truly remarkable in this age of conveyor-belt doctoring. My last doctor could never spare me more than ten minutes and never checked me out thoroughly enough. A doctor who was seriously interested in every aspect of my health would make a refreshing change.

  5. This man should be a model for doctors everywhere. You're lucky to have found him.

  6. Lucky you! Here we have a cadre of retired doctors who offer their time for free. Because an office visit wait can be up to four hours with one's primary, visits to this part-time "retired" clinic are up drastically. Still, not the personal service you describe. When i was a child, our "family" doctor made house calls!

  7. This type of "fairytale" only happens in small towns.... :)

    I can not imagine a doctor ever having that much time in cities like New York or LA... Also, by the health care system, most are not given much leeway.... "get the patients in and out in 10 minutes"... like a sausage factory! :(

    you are truly lucky...

  8. Oh my! Amazing! I'm glad for you, WWW.

    Our doc is of the conveyor belt variety - get 'em in and get 'em out. No chat or pleasantries, eyes on the laptop all the time. Has no memory of previous visit or what it was for - with laptop before him - even if it was only days earlier.

    All that said, he's efficient, and for me that's all that matters. Docs are my most unfavourite mortals, so the less time I spend with 'em the better. ;-)

  9. If we want state healthcare, we inevitably have to put up with standardization. It's part of the package. Here in Canada the powers that be made some doctor rationing decisions a couple of decades ago that we are paying dearly for now. Doctors like yours are rare at the best of times, even rarer and harder to access now.

    I had a good doctor out west (and wouldn't you know it, a Newfie by birth), he told me he was in a position to pull strings but couldn't find a doctor for his own sister when she moved to Ontario, let alone me. From what friends tell me here in Nova Scotia, all the good ones are retiring and not taking new patients.

    But as Frances says, there is something to be said for doctor as robot (or vicy versy)...

  10. I'm a bit like Frances and on't want an intimate relationship with my doctor. I would want to keep it as professional as possible and stick to the point of why I am there and not go discussing all sorts of other issues. That would make me feel uncomfortable.

    It would also make me feel uncomfortable that he would spend that much time with me while so many people are in need of a good doctor doing his work and not chatting about archeological finds. Surely he must be able to find some middle ground somewhere. After all, he's not at a cocktail party.

    Sorry to burst your balloon, WWW, but I think that doctor wasted your time and everybody else's.

  11. I have a good listener, but she is very often busy and difficult to book an appointment with. Never too busy to call me back if I ask. Very reassuring.

  12. I think you are very lucky to have found your new doctor. He has made a choice about how he wants to live and work, and it suits both him and you.

    The system, both in the US and Canada, even though in Canada it is government run, deliberately limits the numbers of doctors. That promotes the factory approach with 10 minute appointments. One of my sons is a doctor and he deplores the increase in the number of nurse practitioners, but it is happening because the medical profession has made the MD a scarce commodity.

  13. Thanks for all the comments. We come from 2 schools of thought on this.
    I'm from the school of establishing a good rapport (and file familiarity!)with my MD. I know it is not possible in many places.
    My life was saved because I was friends with a former doctor and when I had an emergency appendectomy about 20 years ago the surgeon needed an assistant ASAP as I was in advanced peritonitis, my GP was at the hospital and gowned up within 10 minutes (at midnight!) to assist him. I am forever grateful to her for saving my life.
    I am also grateful to a friend paediatrician for coming to my apartment when I was the brand new mother of a newborn and was having a complete meltdown. He saved my sanity and thus my baby's distress.
    Doctor as robot? Not for me, thanks!

  14. I would take it for granted, WWW, that if I needed emergency surgery there would be no problem with staff...(or a competent robot - less prone to late night errors, one would think).
    Different systems? I would have thought that our Oz system was similar to Canada's, but I really have no idea.
    As for mums of newborns: I applaud all the help that they can get.

  15. Essential medical care, like other essential services, really shouldn't be dependent upon who you know, should it, WWW?
    That actually sounds quite corrupt.

  16. Oh Frances, I agree with your basic premise but robotic doctors (my eye surgeon is one) have no appeal for me at all.
    I'm a tax accountant, I tend to take care/respond to the needs of my client friends first.
    Ditto doctors, teachers etc.
    We try to detach, but humanity being what it is...
    In my experience, business is always personal.
    Hospitals are notoriously understaffed particularly at midnight with a 2 car accident pile up in emergency and one lone patient awaiting an emergency procedure. I know I would have died if not for Elizabeth.

  17. wow. he sounds terrific. there are a few doctors like that here, but they require cash payment. insurance won't allow them to spend so much time with each patient, and so they have to opt out of the networks.

  18. Bind him to your bosom with hoops of steel, WWW! (If the wife doesn't mind, that is ...)


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