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Kitchener woman says family doctor sent her to ER rather than see her in-person


A Kitchener woman said she is disappointed her family doctor wouldn’t see her in-person and instead told her to go the emergency room.

Sharon Mannell said she started feeling sick at the beginning of June. She said her sinuses were clogged and she had a terrible cough.

She called her family doctor to book an appointment, but she said her doctor wouldn’t see her in-person. Her doctor diagnosed her over the phone with a sinus infection and prescribed her antibiotics.

“I needed to have somebody look at me and see what it is, maybe I’m not explaining it properly. So it was a little bit annoying and a little bit scary,” she said.

After a week on the medication, Mannell said her symptoms got worse. She tried contacting her doctor again for a follow-up appointment, but was unable to reach him on the phone. She sent him an email.

In the email, her doctor told her he recommended she go to the emergency room.

“To me that’s not an emergency. Yes, I feel awful but an emergency is a car accident or a heart attack or something like that,” Mannell said. “I went at 5:30 in the morning, and still waited 3.5 hours before I saw a physician’s assistant.”

“That’s got to be affecting the ER wait times, because people who don’t need to be in the emergency have to be there because they can’t see their doctor,” she said.

However, a study by a team of physicians, said that’s not the case.

In fact, the report found that doctors who opted for virtual-based appointments had their patients go to the emergency department less.

“That may not make sense to people if they had the experience of ‘I tried to see my doctor and they told me to go the emergency room’, but what that tells me is, for every person that got told that, there was more than one other patient who was able to receive the virtual care and avoid going,” said Dr. Mike Green who co-authored the study.

Some doctors point to the shortage of physicians causing emergency room woes.

“There’s still 1.3 million people in Ontario that don’t even have access to a primary care provider. So where are we expecting them to go for care? They’re going to the emergency department,” said Dr. Allan Grill, chief of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

Dr. Grill said he empathizes with people who have difficulty accessing their primary care provider. However, he said so much care has been delayed that doctors are trying to catch up because of the pandemic.

“If you’re a small practice, and you don’t have the team-based support that practices like myself have, it can be sometimes difficult fitting everyone in,” Dr. Grill explained. “The other thing too, the system continues to be under strain. We have staffing shortages in our offices, admin staff have gone off sick. There’s a lot of nurses, physicians who are burnt out.”

He said right now, volumes at emergency rooms are at an all time high. Dr. Grill said medical providers and policy makers need to come together to try and fix this problem in order to prevent people from flooding the emergency department and to make sure everyone is getting the care that they need. Top Stories

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