COLUMN: Oh doctor, where art thou?

In the nine months that I have lived here, it has become evident that finding a family physician is, pretty much, impossible!

Life is filled with difficult tasks, some more difficult than others. Eating healthy — which I do not — is difficult.

Getting the right amount of exercise, is difficult. Making it up a flight of stairs without heaving for breath is difficult, for me anyway!

But it doesn’t have to be a physical skill to be problematic. Solving a Rubik’s Cube is hard, balancing the cheque book can be equally daunting, depending on the individual.

But there are some feats that are universally difficult. It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or a scholar, there are tasks that can be near impossible.

Finding the right six numbers on the 6/49 for example — that’s difficult. Getting your teenage sons to pay attention to you — that is even harder. Finding free parking in Nelson — also challenging.

Of course figuring out what it means when your wife says “fine” — that is probably the hardest task of all.

But now that I live in the West Kootenay, a new item tops my difficult list.

In the nine months that I have lived here, it has become evident that finding a family physician is, pretty much, impossible!

Not that we don’t have doctors, it’s just that they aren’t accepting new patients.

This may be a common occurrence in the Kootenay. However, coming here from the coast like I did, not having a regular physician is a strange new world and a bit of a reality check.

Back in the Fraser Valley we would hear about doctor shortages in smaller communities, but it’s an issue that really doesn’t sink in to people in the Lower Mainland.

News reports citing small towns losing their 24 hour ER service (yes Kaslo is a perfect example) doesn’t have the same impact in Vancouver or Surrey.

But once you live in the Kootenays, reality comes crashing in.

Since arriving in Nelson, I have needed to visit a doctor on three occasions — one of which involved a week-long hospital stay, but let’s not get into that.

The tragedy is, I was required to visit a different doctor each time. With a lack of readily available physicians, medical clinics become  the sole option for newcomers — no, you can’t go to the emergency room because you have the sniffles.

While clinics are superb for one time ailments, anyone who suffers from a chronic illness — that would be me — knows the benefit of having a regular doctor.

Currently, every time I see a physician, we have to go over my history, what meds I’m on, etc., etc.

There is no rapport, no familiarity. It’s all rather uncomfortable and intimidating, especially if you need any kind of invasive testing — I am 50 after all — and I’d rather have some kind of  confidence and previous experience with the person putting on the rubber glove.

I mean the doctor/patient relationship is a kind of sacred bond. It’s one thing to shop for groceries at different stores or take your car to various mechanics, but you want to know the person who’s checking that weird bump and the back of your whatever.

I don’t want to stand in various cold offices with nothing on but a backless gown in front of a stream of different doctors. I want one doctor. My doctor!

Ironically, I finally did manage to find a local physician accepting patients here in Nelson. However, I never made it into the office. I met the doctor when I was admitted to hospital and I did get all my medical files sent from Abbotsford to the clinic.

But when I called to make a follow up appointment, I discovered the physician had closed the practice in Nelson in order to open a new one.

So the search begins anew.

Surely there is a doctor out there willing to treat a middle aged, overweight, inactive  type one diabetic, who has survived sepsis cancer and a brain aneurysm, as well as a bad cold and one wicked hang nail?

Did I mention it was a big medical file?

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