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Without a doctor? Doctors Offer Some Short-Term Solutions | UKTN radio

the dose28:10How do I take care of my health without a doctor?

Millions of Canadians do not have a primary care physician or primary care provider. dr. Peter Lin, a primary care physician and director of the Canadian Heart Research Center, explains how people can take their health into their own hands when they’re in-between or looking for a primary care provider.

Millions of Canadians do not have a primary care physician, and with long wait times at emergency rooms and walk-in clinics, many wonder where to get the care they need.

So how can people make sure their health is taken care of if they don’t have a regular primary care provider?

There is no single answer, as individual health needs are complex and can vary based on factors such as age, family history, and any existing chronic illnesses. The first tip is not to give up on finding a GP, as many doctors agree that people should have a GP or primary care provider.

“We need that continuity of care to make sure you don’t get into trouble,” Dr. Peter Lin, a family physician in Toronto, and a director of the Canadian Heart Research Center, told Dr. Brian Goldman on the dose.

“General practitioners … primary care [providers]nurse practitioners…are really good at pattern recognition to try to figure out what’s going on and put the pieces together.”

GPs say there are a number of ways people can take care of themselves in the short term, but they should continue to look for a primary care provider.

“Even if you’re healthy, you should see a GP because you don’t know when you’ll get sick,” says Dr. Yvette Lu, a GP who works in Surrey, BC.

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How do I find a GP who accepts patients?

Doctors say there are several ways to find a primary care physician, as the process can vary from province to province.

Lin suggests that people start by asking family or friends if their doctor accepts new patients.

If that’s not an option, he suggests looking for clinics and physician groups that are still accepting new patients on the website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of their province or territory or other regulatory body.

Depending on where you live, specific services may be available to help you find a primary care physician.

For example, in BC — a province where nearly a million residents do not have a primary care physician — the website Pathways Medical Directory is an option to help find a provider, Lu said.

In Ontario, residents can sign up for Health Care Connect, a service that connects someone with a nurse who “searches for a doctor or nurse practitioner who accepts new patients in your community,” according to the report. the provincial website.

Lu says the provincial health line that exists in many provinces — call 811 in BC and Alberta — can also help people access services in their communities.

Sometimes specialists can also recommend a doctor who is willing to take you on as a patient, she said.

And don’t forget to ask if a local clinic has a waiting list, Lu said.

“It’s important to remember that sometimes places open up because people leave or leave a practice for other reasons,” she said. “So even if a practice is closed, it’s worth popping in every once in a while to see if they’re taking on new patients.”

When should I go to the emergency room if I don’t have a GP?

If there is a medical emergency, such as trouble breathing, chest pain, or excessive bleeding, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, Dr. Rita McCracken, a primary care physician and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of General Practice.

If you’ve had problems such as unintentional weight loss of more than 10 pounds, soaked night sweats, blood in your stool or urine, or a breast lump in the past three to six months, she recommends that you have it within two weeks.

Most provinces and territories have a 24/7 service that connects people with a nurse or other qualified professional to advise on health issues and health information.

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What about walk-ins or emergency primary care centers?

Depending on where a person lives, walk-in clinics or primary care centers may also be options, Lin said.

He recommends that when visiting a walk-in clinic, people should be prepared by having a list of their medications, illnesses, or recent diagnoses and new symptoms. He said it can help the doctor.

“They’re trying to make quick decisions,” Lin said, and to do that, it’s best to “have all the information right at their disposal.”

Neighborhood health centers are also an option in some counties. And there are also virtual clinics, McCracken said.

“While waiting times can be significant in some areas, you can get in,” she said.

cobequid medical centre walk in clinic
A medical walk-in clinic can be seen in Cobequid, NS. When patients visit walk-in clinics, doctors advise them to bring a list of their medications, as well as any illnesses or recent diagnoses and new symptoms. (Anjuli Patil/UKTN)

How do I stay healthy without a doctor?

There are ways people can take charge of their health while still looking for a primary care physician.

McCracken’s main suggestion is to stay up to date on vaccinations, be it routine vaccinations such as the flu shot or COVID-19 vaccines.

“As far as I know, anywhere in Canada you can access vaccines in an alternative way besides your GP, so either through public health or through pharmacies,” she said.

She also recommends that people wash their hands and wear a mask around people who are sick and says more practical advice can help people maintain their health.

“All the things our moms and grandmas told us: stay hydrated, wear your seat belt, floss your teeth, don’t drink too much alcohol or smoke other things, get enough sleep, make more friends, and find a hobby. All that stuff is actually linked to better health outcomes,” she said.

Lin said that smoking cessation, weight management and healthy eating are also important factors for your health.

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How can I get routine screening?

Depending on your age, there are recommended routine screening tests that you can perform.

McCracken said that if you have a cervix, a Pap test is essential to have every three years if you have no symptoms. In BC, you don’t need a GP to have the test, she said.

Lin acknowledges that it can be difficult to get these routine tests done without a primary care provider. He suggests visiting walk-in clinics to get a referral.

“This is where you, as the person in charge of your health, have to figure out what screening tests to take, because you don’t have a primary care physician who has some sort of quarterback for you,” he said, pointing out that the organizations for specific types of cancer and disease often have websites that explain when people should be screened.

Some counties also have self-referral for some cancer screening tests. Lin recommends contacting your provincial cancer care agency to find out.

He also recommends checking your blood pressure regularly at a local pharmacy and keeping track of the results.

When people turn to walk-in clinics for aftercare, Lu suggests going to the same clinic every time, as doctors in those clinics often work in regular shifts.

“If you go to the same walk-in clinic or emergency care clinic, then they have your records, so it makes it easier for the doctor you see to care for you,” she said.

What about medical records?

It’s important that patients get copies of their test results or other medical records, ideally in a digital format, Lin said. Lu agrees that this can help doctors better understand a patient’s medical history.

“If you end up going to different walk-in clinics, you’ll still have a copy of, say, an ultrasound that you did,” she said, adding that those tests also sometimes advise patients to follow up or have a follow-up within six months. year.

She says patients can take note of that follow-up date by scheduling it into their phones or calendars.

“Don’t rely on the doctor to call you,” she said.

McCracken’s parting advice to those without a GP is to write a letter to their political representatives.

“If you really want it to change, get your story on paper and send it to your county MP and your federal MP and demand that we provide funding and evidence-based solutions to tackle the frontline crisis once and for all.” all.”

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