February 04, 2016 - 9:00 PM
VERNON - We often hear about how difficult it is to get a family doctor, but what might come as a surprise is even after you get one, you could be ‘let go’ for visiting walk-in clinics.
That’s what happened to Vernon resident Mishelle Schroth this week. She got a letter in the mail from her family doctor saying the office has been getting copies of walk-in clinic visits.
“If you may recall, one of the conditions of my taking over your care as your family doctor was that you try if at all possible to avoid using other clinics and keep your medical care at our office,” the letter says. “I’m afraid I will no longer be able to act as your family physician.”
Schroth says the letter came as a complete surprise after being a patient at the clinic for some 13 years. Her four kids are also patients at the clinic.
“He had mentioned prior, I can’t remember how long ago, that he would prefer it because he would be better aware of what’s happening in our lives and our medical history, and if we can avoid drop-in clinics that would be ideal,” Scroth says.
She claims she was never told that visiting a walk-in clinic could get her dropped as a patient and says she only went to one because she couldn’t get an appointment with her family doctor. Now, it looks like she'll have to keep using walk-ins.
“There’s no doctors taking patients. I was just dumped, and there’s five of us sitting here without a doctor. It’s a little bit frustrating. Where am I going to go now?” she says.
The clinic declined an interview and refused to provide its policy on terminating patient-doctor relationships. But, according to a Kelowna physician, it’s common practice in the medical world. Dr. Shari Claremont, former president of the B.C. College of Family Physicians, says doctors have been doing so for years, for a variety of reasons. She says doctors typically make a point of setting time aside during the day for last minute appointments, and want to see those used. Another reason is if a patient is frequenting walk-in clinics, it may mean they don’t have confidence in their own family doctor, which affects the patient-doctor relationship.
At the same time, she says most doctors would never want someone to go without medical care, so if a patient calls for an appointment and can’t get in, they should be free to visit a walk-in clinic as needed. She adds walk-in clinics are already full of people who don’t have a family doctor, and those who do have one should make every effort to see their own physician first.
There’s no requirement in B.C. for doctors to tell new patients about the clinic’s expectations — including policies on walk-ins — but the College of Physicians and Surgeons does have a position on what happens when a patient is let go. It says physicians should give patients reasonable notice of the decision, including communicating the decision to them in person if possible, and following up with a formal letter. Physicians are expected to give the patient a reasonable amount of time to find another doctor (a minimum of month is advised) and help them find a new physician if possible.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016