I just had my first visit with my new family doctor on Friday and I am very pleased. She was friendly, asked questions that showed a genuine interest in me, and told me she would never be too busy to help me if I had a critical health concern. This was just my initial ‘meet and greet’ session with the doctor but I was encouraged. After nearly four months of searching for a female family physician in Manitoba, I was so relieved to have finally found a doctor, and a cordial, caring one at that.
A few weeks after moving to Winnipeg from Hong Kong I began asking people how to find a family doctor. Most shook their heads and gave me dismal odds on having luck in my search for a physician who would actually be taking new patients. My sister-in-law told me to call The Family Doctor Line operated by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons. That was how she’d found a doctor for her son. I tried this. The first thing they told me was there were no female doctors in the city taking new patients, but they did recommend two male doctors who were.
Out of curiosity I looked the two gentlemen up on the internet. The Rate the Doctor website gave both uniformly bad reviews. One respondent said he always arrived two hours after his actual appointment time and had never missed an appointment yet. Others mentioned waits of three to four hours and emphasized that these doctors were ‘two question’ doctors. You could only ask two questions per visit.
I decided to strike out on my own. I began calling clinics in the city asking if they had female family doctors taking new patients. After about the 10th call I struck it lucky. Yes, one clinic had a female doctor taking new patients, but I would have to wait a full three months before she’d have time in her schedule for our ‘meet and greet.’ The receptionist mentioned three times that this doctor would not prescribe narcotics. I checked this out with a medical professional later, and they told me perhaps the doctor had been in trouble in the past for over prescribing addictive medications so her licence to prescribe certain drugs had been removed. This did not instill much confidence in me.
Someone suggested I go to the Winnipeg Regional Health Access Clinic on Main Street near my home. They said a clinical nurse specialist would see me there, assess my needs and recommend a physician as necessary. I went and began filling out a registration form. I asked the receptionist what would happen when the form was filled out. “We file it”, she said ” and call you when we have someone available to see you.” I asked how long that would be. “At least six months” , she replied, “but perhaps up to a year.” I left without filling out the form.
Then while lunching with friends from Steinbach, a city about 40 miles away, I talked about my problem finding a physician, and one mentioned she had found a female family doctor at the Green Crest Clinic on Pembina Highway. She had gone to the Winnipeg walk -in clinic with bad cold symptoms, because she had been unable to get on with a physician in Steinbach. At Greencrest she had been seen by a friendly and competent woman. “Are you taking new patients?” she asked. When the female doctor said she was, my friend signed on immediately as a patient.
I didn’t waste any time. The very next morning I was at the Greencrest Clinic when they opened and not only could I get on as a patient with a female physician, I would only have to wait a week to see her. Amazing!! I looked the doctor up on the internet and her reviews were satisfactory, with a few patients singing her praises and a few others calling her competent but curt. By this time I was more than happy to take competent but curt.
I saw her on Friday and she wasn’t curt at all. She spoke with a slight accent, but I could easily understand her and she asked questions not only about my health, but my family and background. She was interested in the fact I had taught in Hong Kong and even complimented me on my outfit and asked where I’d got the necklace I was wearing. She told me some doctors only let you ask them two questions a visit, but she wanted me to know that she would never be too busy to listen to any critical health concern I had. She took my blood pressure, gave me a flu shot and told me to make an appointment for a complete physical at my convenience. “Tell the receptionist to set aside at least 30 minutes, so I have enough time for you”, she said.
It took a bit of doing – it certainly wasn’t the efficient and speedy process by which I found an excellent and unbelievably thorough family physician in Hong Kong –but I finally have a female family physician here in Winnipeg!