Triaging the waiting list: maybe there’s hope after all

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 28, 2017 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — Got a call from HealthLink B.C. The message said to phone them back, so I did.

A pleasant woman there explained that they are fleshing out their information on people who are on the waiting list for a doctor.  She wanted to know if she could ask me a few health questions; I told her to fire away.

It was all about any chronic conditions, medications, surgeries, that kind of thing. It took a few minutes. She said if other members of my family wanted to get on the list for the same doctor, they should phone, too, and go through the same questions.

As I was talking to her, I wondered how they intend to use the information. One thought that crossed my mind was that a lot of doctors don’t like to have to deal with patients who have a lot of different medical issues, so I patted myself on the back for sounding like a patient who’d be pretty easy to handle.  A prescription here, an ache or a pain there, collect your premiums and send me out the door with a re-assurance that I’m not on death’s doorstep, yet.

Unwittingly, I may have doomed my chances. No GP for me. I should have lied up a storm about having smoked for 50 years, three cardiac arrests, Type 2 diabetes, a bad hip, soft bones, wheelchair bound and in need of a double lung transplant.

I caught on to the game when I listened to Health Minister Terry Lake talk about what HealthLink is up to with this list — they’re triaging everybody in waiting, with those most in need of acute medical attention going to the top.

I don’t know how we’re all being assessed, but there’s probably some kind of a points system. Two points for a bad liver, three for an ailing ticker, and so on.

Regardless, it’s encouraging, following as it does the miserable failure of A GP For Me and the faux wait list under the Thompson Division of Family Practice.

Now there’s a list that is actually a list. According to the minister, there are 5,000 people on it. Doctors have been found for 300. Considering there are around 30,000 people in Kamloops without doctors, it’s a drop in the medical bucket, but it’s a start.

And, unlike the GP For Me failure, where they didn’t even know what you were talking about when you phoned to get on the alleged list, this time you get a very nice person who knows what questions to ask.

They don’t know anything about information security (just in case you wonder who will have access to your very private information) but they have an actual sheet of questions to run through.

And, it’s 24-seven, since HealthLink provides a bunch of other services as well.

The numbers still don’t add up to solving the doctor shortage. Lake says there are now more doctors per 100,000 population in B.C. than ever before, but the problem is they don’t like to work as hard as they used to.

Some GPs, I’m told, have patient loads of 2,000 or more, which sounds like they’re still working pretty hard, but nobody can begrudge them a little work-life balance.

When I was a kid, our family doctor made house calls. We’ve “progressed” from that to no longer expecting house calls to no longer even expecting to have a doctor.

The new HealthLink effort is helpful, though. As I’ve said before, I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to find me a doctor, but holding your breath isn’t a healthy thing to do anyway.

Mel Rothenburger blogs at ArmchairMayor.ca and can be contacted at [email protected].

 

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