Over the past several years I have spent countless hours in therapy, both one on one and in a group setting. I have spent countless hours with Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Crisis Workers and Psychotherapists. Many are covered by our Health-Care System and many more are not. No matter what their title is or what the purpose for my visit is, one thing is always for certain, I become paralyzed with anxiety and panic leading up to my appointment. It doesn’t matter if it is someone I have never seen before or someone I have seen numerous times, or even someone I see on a weekly basis, the results are always the same. I go to bed the night before with heart palpitations, nausea and very negative self-talk, only to awake the next morning to continue the same cycle. I stare at my phone desperately wanting to call and cancel my appointment feeling too sick and unable to drive.
This past week was no different. My appointment was with someone I have being seeing quite regularly, but still I had a terrible night sleep as usual and the thought of getting out of bed was too much. My husband drove me to my appointment which was at a hospital not so close to home. I arrived at the therapist’s office which is in the out -patient mental health department of the hospital, so you can probably imagine how busy it is. I check in with the receptionist as I do every time I go there, handing my health card to her to verify my information. She thanks me and kindly tells me to have a seat while she lets the therapist know that I am there. As I wait to be called in the feelings of anxiety and panic are only escalating. What feels like an eternity, the receptionist calls me back over to her desk which was unusual. She then informs me that she just found out upon contacting the therapist that he had called in sick that morning. My feelings of anxiety and panic soon turned to rage.
It wasn’t as though my appointment was first thing in the morning and the day had just begun, yet no one seemed to have been informed of his absence. I’m pretty sure that this would not have occurred if my appointment was in a private facility. When dealing with an environment such as a mental health department where patients are already quite vulnerable this to me is unacceptable.
I get that as Canadians we are lucky that a visit to the hospital doesn’t involve paying out of pocket, but our healthcare system is failing us in so many other ways. Have you visited an emergency room recently? I have, and it’s a nothing short of a nightmare. It’s overflowing with sick and elderly people. People are lined up everywhere on stretchers sometimes waiting several days to be admitted to a room. When making a visit to a hospital it’s usually no less than 4 to 6 hours of wait time. This to me is unacceptable.
I get that we as Canadians don’t have to pay to see most specialists, but at what cost? I have been on wait lists for months. I just realized recently that one such referral made by my GP close to a year ago to a specialized therapist has still not even scheduled my appointment. When I had called in the past to find out when I should expect to hear from them, the answer is always the same and so I just stopped calling and put it out of head. This to me is unacceptable.
What about when you do finally get a much anticipated appointment with a specialist. I have had to go through the process several times with different types of doctors and although the wait times may have been unacceptable none have been more discouraging than the process of finding a new psychiatrist due to mine moving away last spring. There is a lack of psychiatrists in Ontario, and I get that they are very busy, but from my knowledge, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who focuses on mental health and in many circumstances prescribes medication to their patients. So why then have I been introduced to not one, but two psychiatrists who have met with me and made suggestions on medications and other things only to put the onus on my GP to look after my follow up care and prescriptions? My doctor is not a psychiatrist nor has she ever claimed to be one, nor is she comfortable prescribing medication for mental illnesses. This to me is unacceptable.
There is really no right or wrong answer or the perfect System and it can be debated for days or months or even years, but from someone who has been living through the nightmares of our Health-Care environment I can tell you firsthand that this to me is beyond unacceptable.