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How Can I Help My Family Doctor
Burn Out Quicker?

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

A modified version of this article was printed on page 12 in the July 24-25, 2004 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Wellness, Doctor's Corner.

For those of you who know me, you would realize that this column is a voluntary work of love, but it is also a form of self-therapy to make the voluntary nights of call more palatable. Believe it or not, there are many humorous incidents that occur in a doctor’s office on a daily basis. Just trying to work under the multitude of re-patched OHIP rules that define socialized medicine, combining that with drifting hospital policies designed to bureaucratize the most flower-powered of physicians, results in laughter and tears, usually together. I ask my colleagues for pet peeves and they arrived in droves. Here are some sure-fire ways to transform the doctor shortage into extinction.

1.   Go to the walk-in clinic for all those little things that you don’t want to bother your family doctor with. Honor them with a list of the difficult things that the walk-in could not solve. Better yet, bring a list of things the walk-in suggested they should spend hours arranging and instruct the receptionist to drop everything and get on the phone looking for things you had other doctors order. OHIP considers both scenarios equivalent and pays the same small amount in both cases despite the enormous work-load difference.

2.   Please be sure to tell your trusted family doctor that the 50-70 hour week, and the 12-17 day work stretches they engage in, is not convenient for you.

3.   Tell me that the Leafs will not win another Cup!

4.   Entice the few remaining doctors to volunteer their off-hour time on weekends and after hours to respond to the needs of hospitalized patients and then charge them a parking tariff when they rush to someone’s aid. This one works on those souls who visit and attempt to cheer up the sick too.

5.   Call the office and tell them that you missed your appointment because you were sick. The car trouble excuse is also a good one. Car trouble seems to be a major illness in some practices.

6.   After years of absence, call your doctor and ask for a magical diagnosis by phone. A Star Trek tricorder will be shipped to you promptly with a note to call tele-health.

7.   Spend your appointment time trying to pry information about other people, or talk about how somebody else really needs a problem examined, and sent you on their behalf. I installed a dart board and hired a team of wild horses as an aid in helping these poor souls.

8.   Book last minute for an urgent one-problem assessment, and then bring a list of problems. After you finish going through your list of problems in detail at the expense of other waiting patients proceed to get up and leave the room. But just as you do, turn around and tell your doctor the “real” reason you came to see him or her and go through your back-up list of problems. Receive “frugal user of the year” award from OHIP.

9.   Tell your doctor about how your boss sent you with forms and how he told you that the doctor would be happier to spend his nights answering impossible questions and filling out forms, and of course it’s all free.

10.   Confirm that what the American & Australian recruiters are saying about respect, money and working conditions is true.

11.   Ask your doctor to arrange and personally pay for all the services that your public insurance plan will not cover.

12.   Take the day off to wait for the delivery guy, but refuse to do the same to get your health checked.

13.   Insist that everything you want and need is OHIP covered. Accept the expensive samples of medication, but groan when you find out the close to 30% of what full-service doctors do is not covered. Appear sympathetic to hear most of it is done gratis or at minimum cost.

14.   Call your MPP and ask him or her to introduce a new health tax designated to fund abstract concepts so that your expectations can increase. Then ask your doctor to explain why.

15.   Call the office and instruct the receptionist that after ten years of absence you are blessing the office with another opportunity to serve you because all the other doctors you have seen just don’t understand your problems.

16.   Do the math and realize that the average family doctor is now able to devote a total of 68 minutes to your health over the course of a year. Why not book an appointment and demand it all at once?

17.   Do your best to avoid answering any direct questions.

18.   Tell your doctor that a million foreign graduates would love to be in his or her place. Are foreign countries that over-doctored? This at a time when more and more Canadian doctors are becoming foreign doctors. Maybe it is just my degree and not the predicament that they want.

19.   Tell your doctor that your lawyer, naturopath, plumber and everyone else working by the hour never seem to be in a hurry.

20.   There is a shortage of specialists. Ask to see at least two for everything.

21.   Never say “thank-you” because it may be misinterpreted as gratitude, and there is no tolerance for extras under OHIP.

Now the above does not apply to my patients, and most doctors will confess that 90% of their patients are absolutely wonderful. It is the 10% that make life interesting. Now, where did I put that “Looking for hardy Canadians to work in the Australian Outback” brochure?

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