Sitting at the pediatrician at the hour-and-forty-five minute mark with my kids to get a flu shot this past week I thought back to what my mom said a few months ago. It was June and my family was in the midst of yet another move, this time across the great big pond from Zürich to Toronto doing a repatriating of sorts after 10 years abroad. I had called my mom, feeling ill from the onslaught of summer flu and telling her that the family doctor had come by the house earlier to see me after he had closed his practice as I was too weak to drive and my husband was not home. So the doctor came by, confirmed my suspicions, ordered me to rest (as much as possible), take some medicine and Tami-Flu. Did I mention he brought all of my medicine? Yes, he did. I did as told and was able to “recover” enough to fly two days later to Toronto for some house hunting with my husband. My mother’s words are still ringing in my ears: “Well, you can kiss that kind of service good-bye in Canada, I think.” Oh, how right she was. Just finding a pediatrician has taken me two months, as not every pediatrician is accepting new patients here in Oakville.
According to our relocation agent, I should have called the local hospital, as they have a list of doctors accepting new patients, but when I did no pediatricians were listed. Any mom or dad knows getting the kids settled with school, friends, and other basics is the most important when moving. I could not allow my children to go to a general walk-in clinic with different doctors every time we visit. After using my gift of gab and persistence, I was able to find a great pediatrician to take my three and five-year-old children. Maybe it helped that we had moved here recently. Whatever the reason for this success with finding their doctor (and one for my husband), I am thrilled. There were so many phone calls, conversations with moms in the carpool line and even one at Toys-R-Us to see what doctors might be good and which to steer clear of. Once I had compiled my own list, I was able to call about town and finally got an appointment with a pediatrician for a 20-minute meeting with the kids – a “meet and greet” if you will. Thank goodness that went well and now we have two good doctors, only time will tell if they are great.
Now I do understand that our new system is good. People flock to Canada for the health care, among other things. But I miss my German and Swiss health care system. Perhaps it was my persistence that also made me find great doctors in Stuttgart (I love my fabulous Dr. S who was and still is everything that I look for when seeking out a new physician) and Zürich. But waiting for two weeks to get a child into the doctor for a meet-and-greet and then another two weeks for a flu shot seems to me, well, a bit on the excessive side.
The waiting times here are also certainly not what I was used to. Ten years in Germany made me a more I-can-not-help-but-be-on-time-to-an-appointment person (read: five minutes early for the appointment). But with an almost 2-hour delay both times I was at the doctor’s office, the question begs itself whether I should really strive to be on time here in Canada. Never in Stuttgart or Zürich was I delayed more that a couple of days for an appointment and if I needed to see the doctor immediately, something would be arranged on the side of the doctor.
So I have a new system. And we are fortunate that we have an international health care provider for the time between coming here and being covered. I should mention when we arrived in Ontario we were required to sign up with the governmental agency OHIP, the government run heath plan for Ontario. Now that we’re signed up, which happened a month after we arrived, we still need to cover all expenses for three months until we are covered by OHIP for any medical expenses. Oh heavens, so much to think about.
At times, I would like to like to rip my hair out with the learning curve of healthcare and all of the other ins and outs of daily life. Having moved here, I am learning that the Canadian system is unlike what I most enjoyed in Germany and Switzerland: amazing healthcare 24/7 with no questions asked. But the healthcare is good here, better than in other places and I like where we live as well as the people. So enough complaining about that learning curve but I will say that I just am not so sure if I am up for learning a new healthcare system in a couple of years again. I suppose I will cross that bridge, border or ocean, when the time comes.
– Sonia Illner, GW Expat Blog guest blogger