BY: NADIA ZAIDI
One of the most important relationships is the one you have with your doctor. It could very much save your life.
But when waiting rooms are swelling with sick people, doctors sometimes speed through check-ups, and can ultimately be dismissive of patient grievances, no matter their severity.
One of the greatest advantages of living in Canada is the free healthcare, but it doesn’t necessarily come without a price. Hospital-acquired infections cause Canadian taxpayers over $1 billion a year.
In fact, medical errors and hospital-inquired infections account for 30,000 to 60,000 lives a year. When my father suffered a stroke three years ago, he nearly became part of that statistic. After contracting numerous infections post-hospitalization, the medical system I once revered jaded my perception of the “free” healthcare we proudly advocate for.
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t acknowledge how fortunate we are to have free access to healthcare – but I also wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t acknowledge the flaws in our system. Sometimes you have to fight tooth-and-nail to be heard by a doctor. And that is, pardon the pun, quite painful at times.
Hospitals are the third leading cause of avoidable deaths each year, and kill between 8,000 and 10,000 Canadians annually. Around 70,000 patients a year experience preventable and serious injuries as a result of hospital treatment.
It doesn’t help that there is a lack of transparency and reporting on hospital-related incidents and ratings. As it stands, Canada does not have a comprehensive national hospital rating system. Additionally, the Canadian Institute for Health Information isn’t exactly an easy navigation for specific hospital-related information.
In the U.S., when hospital rating systems are posted, it receives robust media coverage. The same doesn’t happen in Canada.
And the cases of misdiagnosis are hard to come by in Canada, at least publically. There isn’t access to records on the amount of misdiagnosis that result in illness and death.
In Canada, most doctors are covered by a specialized medical defence organization called the Canadian Medical Protective Association. The CMPA defends doctors who are allegedly neglectful to their patients. Lawyers who specialize in failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis are familiar with the CMPA and the evidence required in order to be successful in developing a claim.
It’s also a case of feeling excluded from the consultation process. A doctor doesn’t always know more than you do, and I think it’s about time that we stop believing in a culture of undermining, and decipher between patient diligence and ignorance.
For instance, when it comes to cancer, less than half of all patients report being knowledgeable about treatment options. Among those people, a large number report that they do not have enough support to make those important decisions and feel overwhelmingly unprepared to discuss treatment options with their doctor.
I’ve had to be my own healthcare advocate. I have also been the advocate for a loved one. I know how it feels to be dismissed and easily overlooked and ignored. It’s never okay for a doctor to tell you that your symptoms are “in your head” or that they do not know what is wrong with you, because a medical professional – with a medical degree – owes you a better answer in their specialized field.
If you ever feel unsure about a doctor’s opinion, you have the right to say no and explore other options. It is your body and your mind at risk, so advocate for yourself. Advocate for others, especially those who may not be able to understand or cannot self-autonomously make decisions. Advocate for the right to proper healthcare. We may not have perfect healthcare, but it is far better than most of the world… and we should never take that for granted.