Learning about Gatineau Health Care system the Hard Way!

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Hello everyone! Just thought I’d take the chance to write a short blog post on something that happened to me recently which highlighted to me exactly how terrible the Gatineau health care system really is. Luckily, I’m okay, and am glad that’s the case, as I’m about to spend the next few paragraphs venting on the shortcomings of having moved my health care from Ontario to Quebec, or more specifically from Ottawa to Gatineau. The picture that accompanies this post at least gives you an idea what happened. You can already imagine if that’s what happened to the bike, I must have taken a bit of a beating right? Well, read on for the sordid tale, as well as the follow-up that it entailed. I promise I won’t ramble on too much 🙂

To set the stage, as you all know, I tend to cycle to work as much as I can in the ‘fairer’ months. Although many people think I’m a crazy fellow for all the things I do, I draw the line at cycling to and from work in the winter in the dark. As such, generally, my final commute is the day before the clocks go back in November. That was the plan this year too. The day started super-nice, with a really bright sunrise. That was the problem.

As I left the house and bike full tilt along my normal route at 30+km/hr, the sun was literally blinding me and I couldn’t see much. I headed into a roundabout, and coming out, was completely blinded by the sun (perfect angle on horizon). When my eyes finally adjusted a few seconds later, I noticed far too late the truck on the side of the road. I was 5 ft out. Too close to even react, other than on some root level. I plowed into the bumper at full speed (truck was actually parked). I flew off my bike, and up and over INTO the bed of the truck. Landed there, quite stunned for a good 10 seconds. Quick assessment told me I was mostly okay. No major breaks. Also noticed truck was completely empty, which was a god-send. Imagine if there had been a rake or bottle or something!

Shook myself off a bit, and pulled myself up over the tailgate to see how my bike fared. At first glance, seemed to just be laying on ground. Hmm, but wait! On second look, I noticed it seemed much more like a folding bike. Oh. Apparently it SNAPPED IN 2!! Amazingly, the carbon fiber form survived find, but that actual aluminum frame snapped cleanly at the joint of the top tube, down tube, and steerer tube! I’ve never seen that before. Damn! From this spot 1.5k from home, I had to hike back with the remnants of the bike to get ready for work. Pretty bad start to day.

While showering off the dirt and such, I re-assessed my injuries. Small scratches around nose, eyes, face, and a large scrape on inner thigh. Again, luckily, I didn’t actually lacerate my femoral artery or anything, which is where the scrape on thigh was! Nose was extremely tender, but no apparently broken. My muscles were quite stiff from the impact, but otherwise not bad. Headed to work, and survived the rest of my day pretty well, patiently explaining repeatedly what had happened. By night and next morning, the stiffness was pretty marked, and I decided to be safe I’d get checked by a doc. OR SO I THOUGHT!

The plan was to visit a clinic over lunch. Ha! Fat chance. Went to what I thought was a public clinic, where I was more or less kicked out. No doctor there? No appointment? See ya! They did give me a number to try and call where I would be given a list of clinics that would take me. Okay, so no immediate appointment, but someone should see me soon, right? So, I make the phone call. The woman on the other end of the line is immediately apologetic. She explains to me in no uncertain terms that finding any medical help in Gatineau is very difficult. She is in Sherbrooke, but supposed to give out the info on any region in Quebec. Apparently, Gatineau is the absolute worst!

She lists off a few clinics, we try for anything near downtown or my house, but there are basically no public clinics at all. Finally, she does find a few in the area to suggest, the starts telling me the process to actually get in to see a doctor at them. Things like this: well, they only take walk-ins on Tuesday’s and Thursdays, and only take 20 patients, and there is only one doctor. Oh! And you have to go in the morning to actually get a number to have the honour of going back in the afternoon and HOPING to get in! What the fark??!?! I politely decline. My other option? Well, emergency room of course. How might that work out? Well, be prepared to spend the night and wait about 14 hours to see anyone there!

It is absolutely and completely appalling in my opinion. So why is it so bad? Well, apparently, it’s all about the proximity to Ottawa. I guess the pay is better in Ontario, so doctors would rather work there. It means most Gatineau residents without doctors give up and go across the river to see doctors. They have to pay upfront, then apply to the Quebec system for a reimbursement. Sadly, it isn’t 100%. Expect between 40-60% I think. Of course, if I saw a Quebec doc, it would cost nothing. Not too pleased with that, but I guess that’s the way things will have to go.

In the end, I didn’t end up seeing anyone, other than my regular massage therapist who took fine care of my tightness and even suggested some good physio exercises. I’m completely fine now, other than the residual angst over the health care. I’ve even found a nice replacement bike that I bought used from someone I contacted online. A bit better specced than my old bike, but will have to do a bit of work to it over the weekend. It is going to be a sweet ride when I’m done.

As to the whole health system? Well, looks like I’ll have another chance to try things out, as my knee pain is worsening, and I definitely need to get in to see some specialists during the long cold winter to hopefully get me all set up for next spring. I’ve asked the sports community for advice, and most just suggested people in Ottawa, and said I should just pay up front and hope for the best. There are sports docs in Gatineau as well, but when I called for an appointment last week, I was told mid February was the first opening! Ugh. Wish me luck folks, as ActiveSteve DOES NOT like to hibernate! So ends my post and my rant. The next post should be much more pleasant, as I’ll fill you all in on my ‘honeymoon’ from November 🙂

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