Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Operation Family Doc

The military member
of whom I am so proud.
Good news! The Canadian Military Family Resource Centre in Ottawa has started a program to help support families like ours who don't have a family doctor. (Note to my American friends: in Canada, because we have universal health care, military dependents are not eligible to use military health services.)

We received a mailing yesterday about "Operation Family Doc," which said, in part:
What is “Operation Family Doc”? 
This program facilitates the families of Canadian Forces (CF) members to obtain a family physician in a timely manner.  
Why is this program needed? 
CF families, because of frequent moves to accompany the serving member throughout his or her career, find it difficult to find and maintain family physicians. The average posting is 3 to 4 years, during which time the family may not find a regular physician and may have to rely on drop-in clinics or hospital emergency rooms. Operation Family Doc aims to link families with their new doctor as soon as they arrive at their new post. 
Amen. It's about time.

The member does have to submit an "application," and it isn't clear how long it will take to connect a member's family with a doctor, but it most certainly has to be less than two years, which is what it's taken me.

This, coincidentally, comes about six weeks after I sent a letter to the Director General of Personnel and Family Support Services (DGPFSS - cuz you juts know there is an acronym!). Here's what I wrote:

I am a proud military wife writing to let you know about an issue that you may not be aware of: access to consistent health care for families of military members upon return from an out-of-country (or even out-of-province) accompanied deployment.
The Canadian Forces has already ensured that military dependents are not subject to the usual three-month waiting period for provincial health coverage. That gave me tremendous peace of mind when returning to Canada!
I would like to see something comparable for access to a family doctor whereby a medical practice would be obliged to accept military dependents as new patients on a priority basis. I appreciate that this would require negotiation with the provincial health systems or the Canadian Medical Association, but I consider this an extremely high priority for the wellbeing of military dependents and the likelihood of military personnel to accept accompanied out-of-province or out-of-country postings.
Here is our story. I doubt that it is exceptional.
In 2005 my husband was deployed to NORAD in Colorado Springs. It was an exciting posting for our family and well worth the upheaval. 
However, upon returning to Ontario in 2010, we learned that our previous family doctor had moved to a different city. This was critical as our family has several chronic health conditions that require ongoing, consistent medical supervision: I have Type II diabetes which at the time of the move was diet-controlled and required no medication.
Furthermore, given the shortage of doctors in the province, Ontario had established a central registry whereby individuals could “register” to go on a waiting list. I did not learn about this list until more than a year after we moved to the province. 
In the meantime, I was “rejected” by several practitioners. My diabetes soared out of control and one doctor at my local walk-in clinic refused to prescribe medication. Finally, I found a walk-in doctor who would prescribe medications for my diabetes. There are more twists and turns to the story, but I’ll leave it there.
Recently, through word of mouth, I learned of two doctors who are accepting new patients. In August, I will meet my new doctor. I hope she will also take on other members of my family.
As I said, I am grateful that, despite all my difficulties, I had confirmed health coverage immediately upon setting foot in Canada. In these times of doctor shortages, I think it is appropriate to extend that assurance to include access to a dedicated family doctor.
I haven't received any reply from the DGPFSS, but I can't help wondering if my letter actually made a difference. Wouldn't that be nice? Or perhaps I'm not the only one to speak up about the issue. 

In any case, I'm pleased. Military families should absolutely not have to go through what I have.

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