All over the island, emergency rooms have been bursting at the seams. Flu season this year has been especially bad. It seems like almost everyone was sick over the holidays.
Shortly after Christmas, I left for a week in Aruba and it felt like every second person on the plane was coughing. I was therefore not all that surprised when I developed a fever and painful cough while still on vacation.
With a fever that lasted a few days and a feeling of heaviness in my chest that was starting to affect my breathing, I started to get worried about being in shape to make the plane ride home. When the ibuprofen stopped working and I could no longer control my fever, I made a frantic call to a clinic, thinking the next step was the hospital ER.
The clinic was about to close (it was close to 5 p.m.) but I was put on the phone with a doctor who asked me a few questions and then told me she would prescribe antibiotics by phone. Fifteen minutes later (nothing is very far in Aruba), I was at a nearby pharmacy picking up a prescription for azithromycin. Two days later, my fever was gone as well as the pain in my chest.
It made me kind of glad this happened in Aruba, as I never would have received such quick attention in Montreal. A few years ago, I had bronchitis and it took over a month and several visits to local clinics until a doctor decided to order a chest X-ray and prescribe some antibiotics.
It also made me think about our health-care system, and how long it can take to get an appointment assuming you are fortunate enough to have a family physician. Even if I would have been lucky enough to reach my doctor’s office (it is not always easy to get through), I would not have been able to speak with her over the phone. I am sure I would not have received a prescription without a visit, which would have taken a few days at best to schedule.
I don’t think I would have fared any better at a local clinic. I certainly would not have been able to see a doctor so late in the day. From past experience, I know I would probably have lined up early in the morning at Statcare, which is the clinic closest to me. After waiting for hours in a crowded room with a suppressed immune system and many other sick people, I would have seen a doctor who would have most likely told me that it was the flu and it would pass in due course.
The whole experience in Aruba also made me wonder how the kind doctor in Aruba got remunerated, if she did at all, for her services. Is there a policy in place to attract tourists? Did I just stumble upon a sympathetic doctor? Travellers to Quebec would not be so lucky.
I guess the lesson is that I should have had the flu shot this year, but I can’t help thinking maybe we could learn something from health care systems in other parts of the world. With record number of people affected by the flu, and overflowing clinics and ERs, our system could use some improvements.
— Suzanne Korf, a Pointe-Claire resident, is a professional fundraiser who has worked for non-profit organizations for more than 25 years. She is a senior director of development for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.