Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Canadian Health Care - New Brunswick Style

I like doctors.  I like the appointments and most of the things that go with them, especially knowing that you are taking care of your body.  There are no mulligans when it comes to your health.  For the first time in my life I find myself without a general practitioner.  I have been in Saint John since January and on the list for a family doctor for the same length of time, but I remain homeless in this respect.  I won't even mention that I am supposed to be under a doctor's regular care and am supposed to get a referral to a specialist.  Oops.

I'm not complaining because Holly is in an even worse predicament having been here longer, but has had to go through the red tape of trying to explain having lived a number of years in a country with a reputation for its evil-doing and deceitfulness when it comes to the rampant theft of free Canadian health care - the United States.  And, as will happen, she needed minor, but necessary health care recently.  Thankfully she received a letter in the mail this very morning with her Medicare number telling her her card will arrive shortly.

Thus began our adventure.  Armed with her newly born Medicare number, she phoned for an appointment at a local medical clinic - a responsible alternative to making the trip to the emergency room.  The only way to get an appointment at this clinic is to phone at the daily given hour for a slot later the same day.  At said hour she began the process:  dial, busy signal, hang-up, redial, repeat.  It's like trying to win the grand first-caller-through prize at a radio station.  Finally, a long wait on hold, then the receptionist.  She can see a doctor!  Wait.  First, like those dreaded skill-testing questions, you have to prove yourself worthy over the phone of the privilege of seeing the doctor.  This took two of these phone calls and a story just short of crocodile tears to accomplish.  Still, we had an appointment in two hours time.

Arriving fifteen minutes early at the clinic, we were greeted by a good sized line with many savoury characters in need of medical care.  After using up that fifteen minutes we got to the receptionist's window where a middle-aged lady decked out in thick makeup, smooth leather, a skirt that flowed to just below the crack of her ass and high heels looked up.  Holly handed her the paper the province of New Brunswick had sent, as it had all of her information, including the words, "Presentation of this letter entitles the individual(s) named to medical/hospital services as per established Act and Regulations set forth for New Brunswick Medicare."

"We don't take those," said the receptionist/club lady.

We asked her to read the phrase above.  "Nope, it's against the clinic's policy.  You will have to pay, and we only accept cash, if you need to see the doctor."

Holly handed the nice lady the money and received her change and waited for her receipt which she would need to get reimbursed from the government.

This was when I overheard the raspy smoker voice of the fine gentleman I had been trying to ignore four people behind us pipe up and say, "This ain't a bank.  Take your fuckin' time putting your money away why don'tcha."

I looked at him.  "You gotta a fuckin' problem buddy?"

I allowed myself to be caught up in the welfare drama and replied, "No, I'm going to be your problem in a minute."  Rather witty I thought.  Anyway, the civilized part of me clicked and I ignored whatever spewed next.

After receiving the receipt we were shown to the room to await the doctor.  I noticed a sign on the wall that stated that it was not permitted to give the doctor more than one complaint per visit.  In a few moments he arrived in his baggy jeans and untucked shirt, stepping inside the room and closing the door, first glancing at his clipboard, then Holly, ready to hear the reason she was here.  Three minutes later, after a twenty second examination of her eye and a "you have two heads" look after being told she hasn't a family doctor as of yet, he was writing a prescription and reaching for the door.

We left the exam room and entered the waiting room where I gave my new friend a cheerful "thank for contributing negatively to an already miserable situation" wave and we left to have the prescription filled by a pharmacist who seemed entirely put out and confused that Holly would want to talk to her about a medication she had never taken before.

We then trudged home, feeling dirty on top of the full weight of what our wonderful health care system has become.

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