Frustration is how Justin Bianco would describe the struggle to find a doctor for his family — and anger is what he felt when his son got sick and they did not know where to turn.
When Bianco and his wife Erin, five-year-old daughter Ava, and twin two-year-olds Jade and Logan, moved to Owen Sound in the summer of last year, they kept their family doctor in Burlington until they could find a new one closer to home.
More than a year later, they find themselves without options with their doctor back in Burlington retiring and no new doctors willing to take them.
Not having a local physician became even more pressing when their children started getting sick, and they lacked options in the area.
Bianco said his two-year-old daughter Ava had to be admitted to the emergency room in December with trouble breathing. Her follow-up appointments had to be done through their family doctor, who was a three-hour drive away.
Then, on Tuesday, Bianco said they had another medical scare when his two-year-old son Logan fell ill.
“I needed to find a family doctor for my family, for my two-year-old, who is having breathing issues, who is coughing up a storm, is up all night crying because he’s in so much pain, and all I can do as a father is be there to try and comfort him and try to make him feel better,” Bianco said.
“But there should be more done. He should be able to go into even a walk-in clinic. Even if you don’t have a family doctor, there should be at least a walk-in clinic to be able to the patient.”
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While Bianco’s doctor in Burlington was able to help over the phone and email them a prescription, their son still needs to see a doctor to get tests.
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“I have been calling every little town from here to Collingwood down to Hanover and all these other surrounding areas trying to find a clinic, at least the walk-in clinic, and there’s not even a walk-in clinic anywhere near us,” Bianco said.
“It’s really frustrating. It’s pretty disgusting, if you ask me. It’s sad that our whole health-care system has come to this, and two-year-olds can’t even get seen by a family doctor.”
Bianco said that when his company gave them the option to relocate to Owen Sound, he was happy to make a move but was surprised at the lack of health-care options.
The Bianco family’s experience is not uncommon, with the Ontario College of Family Physicians reporting that if things continue, one in five Ontarians could be without a family doctor by 2025.
“Ontario’s health-care system is in crisis, and that includes family doctors,” said OCFP president Dr. Mekalai Kumanan. “The family doctor shortage will be felt by all, regardless of where we live in Ontario. In some cases, entire families could be without one.”
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Kumanan said there are currently over 1.8 million people living in Ontario without a family physician, which is expected to grow to three million by 2025.
“The benefit of having a physician, a family physician who you build that relationship with over time, is they know your medical history, and it really ultimately helps to improve the health of that individual,” Kumanan said.
She said the shortage is especially hard for rural or remote communities that only have a few physicians.
“When we look at how we got here, I think it’s partly just chronic underfunding of our primary care sector without really taking the time to recognize how important it is that we address the issues that we’ve been facing,” Kumanan said.
“It’s important that we look at ways that we can address it, and for those who don’t have a family physician, we would recommend that you actually write to your local MPP,” Kumanan said.
“As much as we know this is a province-wide issue, it’s important for us to understand how it’s affecting each community.”
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