Usually, when patients lay a complaint, it is because something of great magnitude has happened – a loved one has died while in their care, or there has been sexual abuse, or outrageous acts of unprofessional or negligent behaviour. I didn’t see my experience as any of those, at least not until the last official appointment with that family doctor, in April, a year ago.
Before then, I had approached a local organization, the London and District Academy of Medicine, LDAM, to help resolve problems I had had with the doctor in question, who had been my family doctor for about a year and a half. I had thought that, as a doctor opening a new practice, that it was stressful and needed time to adjust to, and so thought his attitude and ways of communicating, as well as organizational methods, etc, would improve over time. However, as time went on, I came to realize he wasn’t improving. In fact, his attitude and ways of conducting his practice were getting worse. Moreover, it was obvious he didn’t want me as a patient, in fact, he asked me to find a new doctor, something I was reluctant to do due to the difficulty in finding one in the first place. Surely, a doctor should be able to do his job, treating patients that come to him, without having personal biases interfere.
Recently, I have come to think that he was treating me as a walk-in patient, not as one of his registered patients. Having to go to his office every three months to have prescriptions renewed, by hand, not on the form, at the risk of errors being made, was just one example of that. Although the pharmacy provided a form that had the items on it to be checked off, he required me come in so he could do it by hand, which itself resulted in the occasional mistake and further consultations with the pharmacy, and another trip to the doctor to sort it out.
There came to be an accumulation of instances by him of unprofessionalism, including lack of attention to the details of making referrals, discussing reports, prescribing medications, demeaning comments, trivializing my health concerns and in general, offering a lack of quality time in assessing what treatment I needed - five minutes or so, but not enough. At the end of the my time with the doctor as his patient, however, I felt I had been subjected to more than what I should have had to put up with, and in a manner that was more than disrespectful. It was an attack on me as a human being - as a woman, an older person, and as a single person living in a separate city from other family members.
It was as though he had no time for me. And sometimes, it seemed as though some things that happened that were harmful to my health and sense of wellbeing were done on purpose. Possibly what happened to me was not any worse than how many long-term Canadian doctors are towards their ageing patients, at least the ones they see as being a burden on the system.
It was a year ago that I laid the complaint against my previous family doctor. CPSO stands for College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. For the most part the CPSO seems to be an organization for the benefit of the doctors, so having one’s complaint dealt with in a serious manner is no easy matter. I wrote on my blog almost a year ago about my first encounter with the ‘investigator’ at CPSO. See ‘CPSO complaints against Ontario doctors’. More recently, not having much faith left that the second assigned CPSO investigator was addressing my concerns objectively, and having come to see what happened in terms of discrimination and not only as bullying, abuse and lack of attention to the administrative aspects of his practice I decided to open a case of discrimination against the doctor with the Human Rights Commission of Ontario. See on my blog, ‘Health care among single, older women – a case of discrimination for OHRT’.
A while back I also founded a discussion list on Yahoo - Ageism in Canada's health care system. Anyone wishing to join would be welcome, to discuss issues of concern, whether for the young-old at home, or in hospital, or the old-old, in long term care homes.
The subject of health care among those growing older is so wide I decided to start with my own experience in this blog piece and see where it leads. Twenty-five years ago I studied ageing while at Western University (was UWO), and wrote several essays and research papers as well as conducting interviews with older people – mainly of close to retirement age, about their experiences and thoughts on the subject. Several of these are on my website – the Diversity in Retirement website.
I started my first website with a research essay about my grandmother, Gertrude McPherson, which also was about aging, actually about the life cycle and how women (she was born in 1882) were able to contribute to society and achieve fulfilment over the course of their lives. And of course, for many, that meant marrying and having children. Along the way she became a missionary (in Hong Kong), an artist and art teacher, was married and raised three daughters, and wrote a book, The Grey Cottage, hence the title of my new photo essay, adapted from the original 2001 edition, Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage.
My interest in aging and life cycle development started while at Western University, where I went many years after graduating from high school in Woodstock, Ontario. Taking courses on sex and gender, and aging and the life cycle in Sociology, while I was going through my own midlife changes put me on the path I would take, researching these areas of study and more. No career came of it, though I started the websites and have continued to do research.
List of resources
Ageism in Canada's health care system
Yahoo discussion group
founded by Sue McPherson
Feb 25, 2015
Baby boomers, longevity, and health care
Sue’s Views on the News
April 9, 2012
CPSO complaints against Ontario doctors
Sue’s Views on the News
July 30, 2014
Diversity in Retirement website
Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage
photo essay by Sue McPherson
adapted 2015 from 2001 essay
Healthcare: Technology is a bigger cost driver than demography
By Julia Belluz
February 10, 2012
Health care among single, older women – a case of discrimination for OHRT
Sue’s Views on the News
April 12, 2015