Waterloo Region residents struggle to see doctors even as physicians urged to return to in-person care

·2 min read

Cambridge resident Jamie Bertin has struggled to get an in-person doctors’ appointment for the past year and a half, even when one of her children has portrayed symptoms that are similar to COVID-19 symptoms.

Just recently, her son was diagnosed with hand-foot-and-mouth disease without being examined by a doctor in person.

“The doctor didn’t even ask for a picture, just listened to my explanation and said, ‘oh yeah must be hand-foot-and-mouth disease,” said Bertin.

“Aren’t doctors the ones who should be working through a pandemic? Aren’t they trained to protect themselves? Didn’t they take an oath to be doctors first? It’s been absolutely ridiculous.”

Bertin is not alone in her struggle. Over the past three months, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has received 68 calls related to the unavailability of in-person doctors’ appointments, according to a spokesperson.

Dr. Elizabeth Muggah, president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians and a practising doctor in Ottawa, says that the challenge was that early on in the pandemic virtual-first was the way to go.

“The guidance that we got from the government early on in the pandemic was virtual first, in-person if the person needed it, that guidance only changed at the end of July,” said Muggah.

Cambridge resident Juliet Ames definitely noticed the effects of patients not being able to see doctors in person when she took her mother for an emergency visit to Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

“My mom ended up getting admitted after roughly five hours, because the ER was so backed up with minor issues,” said Ames.

On Oct. 13, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, assistant deputy health minister Patrick Dicerni and College of Physicians and Surgeons CEO Dr. Nancy Whitmore signed a letter to Ontario physicians saying that it’s time to start taking in-person appointments again.

The good news, says Muggah, is that many physicians are striking the right balance, with the Ontario College of Family Physicians reporting that at least 50 per cent of doctors’ visits across the province are being done in person.

“Overall, I anticipate that visits in person are going to increase,” said Muggah.

“Doctors have never worked harder, people’s health needs are high. The challenge right now is we need to really carefully gather the evidence for when virtual versus in-person is appropriate.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After hearing on social media of Cambridge residents on struggling to get in-person doctors’ appointments, reporter Genelle Levy decided to further explore the issue by looking at the context surrounding the struggle to get in-person doctors’ appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times

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