Today I had an appointment with a potential family doctor. My midwife and psychiatrist encouraged me to get on as I am pregnant and will also need one for my child’s healthcare. Cool, no problem! I found a doctor accepting new patients at the health clinic just around the corner! What luck!
I was called into his office and he asked me why I wanted a family doctor. I told him that I didn’t have a family doctor and my midwife and psychiatrist were encouraging me to get one due to my pregnancy and the need for my child to have a doctor to go to. He then proceeded to ask me questions about my psychiatrist, where do I see them, why do I see them, what my diagnoses are, if I am or have ever been on psych drugs and if I knew where I could get those health records from over the years. I answered the questions without hesitation. My mental health care is a part of my overall health care history so I assumed he was just starting there and we would get to physical health later, that is really why I was there after all. I told him that I see a psychiatrist through a program at a local hospital to ensure preventive steps are taken against post-partum depression. I said that my most recent diagnoses are major depression and generalized anxiety and that over the years I have been on a variety of drugs and am not on them now. After less than 10 minutes he explained to me that he does not feel comfortable treating my mental health issues and recommended I go to a community health centre in the area (but further away) so I can have a holistic approach to my health care. He explained that it is just him in his practice and anyone he would potentially refer me to in regards to my mental health would possibly cost money. He also said that there would probably be a wait list but since I’m not due until September I shouldn’t have a problem. He wrote down the name of the community health centre (it’s one I already know) and thanked me for coming in.
I sat there smiling, saying ok, being understanding and it wasn’t until I got to the elevator that it hit me, “Wait…did he just reject me because I’m crazy?”
I do know that doctors, therapists etc. can refuse to treat patients if they feel they are not competent. I respect and understand that. This interaction though just does not sit well with me.
- He never asked me about my physical health needs.
- He only gave me 10 minutes of his time.
- He gave me no choice in having him as my doctor as demonstrated by assuming that I would not like his referrals that require payment and telling me I should have a team of healthcare providers.
- He made quick assumptions about the type of patient I would be due to my mental health status.
- He dismissed the fact that I have my mental health taken care of and therefore do not need him to do that.
- Does this mean that none of his patients have mental health issues? If not then this trend is alarming and if some do then why am I excluded?
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario says that will not discriminate based on the any of the protected grounds as stated in the Human Rights Code. This includes disability which includes mental illness. The College’s policy on accepting new patients says,
“It is not appropriate for physicians to screen potential patients because it can compromise public trust in the profession, especially at a time when access to care is a concern. Screening may also result in discriminatory actions against potential patients.”
Was I not screened? I think I may have been. That policy also states,
“While physicians should accept or refuse new patients on a first-come, first-served basis, clinical competence and scope of practice are permissible grounds for limiting patient entry into a practice.
Some physicians’ practices are focused on treating certain groups of individuals, such as female or geriatric patients. Where the focus is legitimately based on clinical competence and a clearly defined scope of practice, this would, in most cases, be an acceptable reason for refusing to accept a potential patient. Refusal on this basis likely would not infringe the Human Rights Code.
Decisions to accept or refuse new patients must be made in good faith. Clinical competence and scope of practice must not be used as a means of unfairly refusing patients with complex health care needs or patients who are perceived to be otherwise “difficult.”
Clinical competence and scope of practice must be communicated to all individuals who inquire about becoming new patients. This will help determine if it is appropriate for them to make an appointment.”
Now, GP stands for General Practitioner. General meaning, not something specific. I had no reason to think that I would not be walking out with a GP for myself as I was not told at any point before arriving at my appointment that this doctor did not treat patients with mental health issues.
It is being suggested to me that I file a complaint. I am looking into it.