What's Wrong with Healthcare?

Thinking inside and outside of the healthcare box. After 41 years of family practice, what's happened to Canada's healthcare system?

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Bird's Eye View of Family Medicine

Considerable time has passed since I last made an entry to my blog site. Basically, I’ve decided the healthcare train is going down the tracks in its predetermined direction and nothing I say or do is likely to change the direction or the time interval at which it slows down, stops, and considers a new direction. Meanwhile I have decided to continue in my small way to help those that fall between the “train tracks” by doing a bit of palliative care and giving sought after advice by some of my friends.
I’m writing today to suggest a totally new and novel approach to the shortage of family physicians (I’m being facetious).
Over the past four to five days I have noticed that my budgie bird, Jo-Jo, was becoming a “Star Gazer”. In medical terms, he was developing a torticollis. Now to appreciate the story, you should know that I inherited this bird from an elderly couple in my practice, when during a house-call, they asked if I would take Jo-Jo if anything ever happened to them. They said he liked me, and besides, their daughter had a cat. In a moment of insanity (my wife hated birds), I agreed. Some two years later both of these dear elderly folks passed on and I prayed that they told no-one of my promise. Unfortunately, the daughter showed up in my office a few days later with bird, bird cage, bird food, and various other bird paraphernalia. My wife was not pleased and I barely escaped the couch the first night.
That was eight years ago. Since that time Jo-Jo became a member of the family, especially the grand kids and other visiting children. Last year the daughter of the elderly couple expressed pleasure and surprise that Jo-Jo was still alive and doing well; but why not? He was fed the best food, water was changed every day, he was in our solarium with music being played almost every day for his enjoyment, and we spoke to him every time we passed his cage. Life was grand! We even knew what music he liked.
That ended five days ago. On changing his water I noted his head was twisted off to one side giving him the classic “star gazing” syndrome. I hoped he just had a “crik” in his neck, however, over the past few days his distortion has increased and his feeding and ability to drink water have become significantly impaired. After much chastising by friends I at last sought veterinary advice (by telephone). Now I know of many things from a medical perspective that could cause this problem, many of them very serious. The internet spoke of various viruses and such, but Jo-Jo shows no signs of illness and has a voracious appetite, so I doubt the virus theory. I was advised by the veterinary clinic that the bird would have to be seen to determine a cause for his malady. When I asked what the fee for “being seen was” I was informed that the fee was 67 dollars and some cents for the examination; any investigation would be extra. Several thoughts went through my head at that time: 1) It’s a wee budgie bird, how useful would an examination be? Are we going to look in his ear with an ottoscope? Take an X-ray? Take blood? Do a brain scan? Will it require a general anesthetic to examine him properly? And 2) 67 dollars??!! That is as much as I bill for doing a complete check-up on an old man with multiple organ failure and twice as much as I could bill for seeing a person with the same affliction as Jo-Jo.
So here is my novel solution to the family doctor shortage-------PAY THEM AS MUCH FOR SEEING A HUMAN BEING AS VETERINARIANS GET PAID FOR SEEING A BIRD WITH A CRIK IN IT’S NECK! OH my GOSH! Why didn’t someone think of that? Bet you haven’t heard of a severe shortage of small animal veterinarians.