Many people in other countries are jealous of our health care system. Justifiably so, as we can get proper care in times of emergency. However, CRPS has opened my eyes to the drawbacks of a system where we focus our resources to meet the needs of the majority of the population. For people with chronic conditions like us, our lack of an integrated system nation-wide (shit, even province-wide would be nice) create issues that can sometimes cause a medical professional to question things you never thought would be in question. I personally saw about a dozen doctors before I was diagnosed. Before I was put on some medications, it wasn’t as much of a problem. When I needed painkillers though, my historical plethora of doctors was called into question consistently. I was lucky to not be called crazy to my face, as many in the undiagnosed stages of this condition are, but I was never sure if anyone believed me fully.
To illustrate how a chronic pain patient such as myself gets put through the ringer of a system to get treatment, please try and follow along…
CRPS should be treated as soon as possible in a multidisciplinary setting as it requires many different resources to have the chance of positive results. I have been trying to get into a multidisciplinary clinic since I was diagnosed in January. The pain doctor I was sent to, works alone as a pain doctor. I was under the impression he was a part of a clinic. There was an incident and I will not return to that doctor. Alberta has a rule requiring a one-year interim period between pain clinics booked through Central Access. Even though I thought that doctor was part of a full clinic, I will have to wait until next April to qualify for another pain clinic since I saw the previous doc. One pain clinic accessed via Central Access refused to take me as they stated they don’t take out of area patients- they accepted an out-of-area patient I know days after with no questions asked regarding moving. One clinic will not take me if I am on WCB, but they may take me before that happens, still waiting. Another clinic would be out of province, and out-of-pocket, waiting list is booking out to December. As I wait to have my WCB claim re-approved, practitioners are telling me I am not welcome anymore as they had to write reports to WCB, creating a further trail of health professionals dropping me as a patient. So, I wait doing as much as I can on my own, waiting for someone with more knowledge to accept me as their patient. I didn’t even include the trails (yes, plural) of false information I was forced to follow due to communication breakdown, pure incompetency, and record errors.
Unfortunately with the last rejection, I am wondering, “Why?”! Am I being rejected because the doctors think I am beyond help? Am I being rejected because they think I am a problem patient due to the sheer number of doctors and professionals I have been forced to see? Am I being rejected because they are scared of making me worse? Why is a 25-year-old disabled adult with a diagnosed pain condition known as “The Suicide Disease”, laying in poorly controlled pain being rejected from multidisciplinary pain clinics?! Why does my doctor have to sell me as a patient, and insist that I am easy to deal with, and willing to work with others on my health? What on paper could even give someone the impression that I don’t want to work for my health? I have been doing nothing but seeking help from the so-called professional community since it began, knowing that something was wrong.
If it is this difficult for a 25-year-old with a diagnosed pain condition to get treatment, what the hell is every other patient going through? What about the women over 40 with chronic lower back pain? Are they just totally written off by the health system?
Chronic pain is a pressing global issue, and in Canada chronic pain sufferers are pegged at nearly 1/5 adults (Schopflocher, Taenzer, and Jovey, 2011). Kids have chronic pain as well. We are already failing patients in this country and province, we need to do better. Nothing seems to change until it is challenged, but the people who want to challenge it are just trying to survive the day. If you can push past the pure survival mode, try and make it better for the next round. Challenge our lack of timely access to care. It’s time to challenge the class of patients referred to as the “Walking Wounded,” and challenge how common these patients are. Challenge the system by educating yourself. Challenge it by writing a letter to your MLA. Challenge it by not letting unacceptable care slide by. Challenge it by admitting your chronic pain to yourself. Challenge it by publicly identifying yourself, and showing people that chronic pain is closer than they think.