I recently found this interesting post about obtaining rural (well, more rural than Vancouver) medical care in BC:
i drove across town to the strip mall that starts with petcetera and ends with save-on foods and has a medical clinic somewhere in the middle. as i drove by looking for parking, i notice a line of about 30-35 people along the sidewalk and immediately thought:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“that better not be the walk-in clinic.Ã¢â‚¬Â
of course, it was. destined to open itsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ doors in another minute or two and already with 3 dozen people patiently waiting in line for what looked like movie tickets as much as medical aid.
Apparently there is only one medical clinic serving Prince George’s 75,000 citizens, and it only opens after 4:00pm.
On a related topic, the last time I visited my doctor, he explained to me that he thought the traditional GP or family doctor would soon disappear. He said nearly all new doctors were specializing. I have no idea if he’s correct about this, or totally off his rocker.
One strategy for reducing line-ups at clinics and doctor’s offices is user fees. When I lived in Ireland, they had a user fee system in place. I thought it was a bit exorbitant, but you basically paid 30 Euros to see a doctor.
The level of service I received from my GP was far superior than his Canadian equivalent. The appointments were longer and the doctor was more attentive. After all, I was paying for a service, and receiving suitable advice in return.
One side effect of this user fee system was that the role of the pharmacist changed significantly. In Canada (or at least here in Vancouver), pharmacists are mostly prescription-filling machines. In Ireland, they were ad hoc nurses. I overheard many conversations at the pharmacy or ‘druggist’ which you’d normally hear in a Canadian doctor’s office. You couldn’t so much as buy cold medication without having a brief consultation with the local pharmacist.
The problem with user fees is that doctors don’t like them. After all, fees would reduce their customer volume. So, we could charge a modest user fee ($5 or $10) and you turn around and pay most of that money to doctors.
Let’s be honest, whether you’re a bricklayer or a doctor, money talks. If we want to keep more doctors in Canada, and encourage them to become GPs, we need to pay them more money. Otherwise, we’re going to keep seeing long line-ups and waitlists (which, in truth, aren’t that bad when compared to other nations) at all those babyboomers get older and sicker.
The same goes for nurses, though unfortunately they’re unionized, so that complicates matters.