'Do I need a doctor?' It's a question that people wrestle with all the time. Going to see the doctor in Canada either means waiting a week or more to get an appointment, or many hours spent languishing in the emergency room waiting area. While some people tend to err on the side of caution and will rush to the ER every time they get a splinter, others refuse to call for medical assistance even when it's obvious that they need stitches or medication. While the first case results in increased waiting times for everyone, the second can be damaging to long-term health or even fatal. To help you decide when to go to the doctor, we've divided health concerns into four categories.
This category is for life threatening injuries where every second counts. Even if you're uninsured, wanted by the police, and living abroad, don't try to drive yourself to the hospital. Call 9-1-1 to summon paramedics and an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Chest or left arm pains or tightness, blurred vision and reduced mobility on one side and allergic reactions are all 9-1-1 ailments, as are any injuries that result in unconsciousness or severe bleeding.
Emergency doesn't just mean losing gallons of blood in a five-car pileup. There are plenty of legitimate emergencies that don't require an ambulance ride. You don't have an x-ray machine at home and your family doctor's office doesn't have one either, so if you think a bone may be broken, go to the ER. If your cut is too deep for a band aid to close, you need to go to the ER for stitches. Anyone sustaining an injury that results in a period of unconsciousness, however brief, should also be taken to the ER to be checked out.
Your family doctor can handle all non-severe or chronic ailments as well as provide you with information on elective procedures. For instance if you want a botox treatment, make an appointment with your doctor for a referral. If you need a doctor's note for work because you had to stay home with a sprained ankle or a cold, make an appointment. Severe or persistent flu symptoms, chronic muscle pain, or a lingering cough should also be checked out by a family doctor, not seen at the ER. You should also consult a doctor about any unusual or unexplained pains or rashes.
If you've got the flu or a cold it's perfectly fine to stay home and treat yourself with chicken soup and orange juice unless symptoms persist for longer than a week, just avoid going to work to avoid spreading your illness. Small cuts that stop bleeding after a few minutes of pressure and can be closed by butterfly strips or band-aids don't need medical attention if you make sure to clean them properly and apply antibiotic cream to prevent infection.
Emergency Dental Care
Dentistry in Canada operates in a different way than our standard medical care. Because dental care is not government funded, dentists work on a simple fee-for-service basis (though you may have a plan that helps pay those bills), and it is his or her choice whether to offer appointments to deal with emergency care or not, and whether to extend those appointment times to people who are not already patients in their practice. Most dentists are happy to welcome new patients, and prefer that their clients and prospective clients err on the side of caution. Pain or bleeding in your mouth is always worth a phone call to your dentist.