Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Assembly-Line Patients

Posted on | May 19, 2011 | No Comments

François Legault unveiled earlier this week his magical plan to put an end to the shortage of family doctors in Quebec. The announcement was more or less noticed given the media interest to the DSK trial and the new Harper Cabinet. This is fortunate for the previous PQ minister since his actual plan does not hold the water and has alarming flaws.

Thus, the Coalition for the Future of Québec suggests that each doctor sees a minimum of 1000 patients, ideally 1500, at least three times per year. This makes for around 4500 appointments per year, at least. Our doctor works about 200 days per year with a bit of luck (depending on how many days’ off he decides to take). Thus this amounts to 22.5 patients, per day. If a single visit lasts 30 minutes (including the paperwork, follow-ups, exams, patients who talk endlessly and so on…) our family doctor ends up working over 11 hours per day.

There are two possible consequences: overworked and tired doctors end up doing more erroneous diagnostics and leave out facts which should alarm them. Or to the contrary doctors make visits shorter and shorter, make incomplete diagnostics and leave out facts which should alarm them.

But what about the patient? He is not really mentioned. The patient has become merchandise, common stock. We don’t provide enough service? Let’s increase the assembly-line speed. The important thing is to process the patient backlog as fast as possible.

There is a problem here: I am not simply merchandise. Every human being has dignity and fundamental rights which must be respected. Of course there are not enough doctors around, but there are plenty of other hands-on professionals, nurses and pharmacists. The latter however are not allowed to make diagnostics. Why? Because there is a certain scorn held towards them by generalist and specialist doctors, even felt between pharmacists and nurses. Doctors refuse to delegate part of their sacred medical authority to these “inferior” professionals.

The true patient to cure here is the doctors’ pride. We will not reach this goal by turning them into slaves working on an assembly line aiming only to summarily examine each patient. We must rather remove from them tasks which have no added value, using the law if need be, and leave to their care those cases that really required the specialised diploma they own.


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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

    Tous droits réservés, Patrick Meunier, 2010

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