Opinion

Editorial: Take an active role in your health

It's no secret that finding a doctor who is taking new patients is a difficult task.

Unless you have complex care issues or are pregnant, chances are that every nagging cough, aching joint or unending migraine will end with you pulling a number at your local walk in clinic — or worse, waiting through the night in an emergency room for basic care.

Of the 4.4 million people in B.C., it's believed that 14 per cent are "unattached" to a family physician (see story, front). That equals more than 600,000 men, women and children who don't have a singular care provider. Granted, some of those people are perfectly fine with that. But many others are desperate for a family doctor who can oversee their children's health, their aging parents, or their own regular exams.

It's well known that having a doctor you trust can improve your health. But even for those with family doctors, wait times for appointments can be as long as three to four weeks — not much help for someone suffering acute symptoms.

But all the shortages and wait times aside, there are qualified, caring professionals doing their best to help as many people as they can in a day. As we are learning through the GP For Me initiative, doctors are working on long-term solutions for a better system.

Taking an active role in your own health care can only help the situation, and there are a number of things we can each do.

That includes using the HealthLink website and accessing medical advice through their 811 phone line.

Take notes at your doctor's office, or ask your doctor to write down important information for you. Don't leave prescription refills to the last minute. If you have a chronic illness, go to clinics and seek out information to help you manage your symptoms. Book appointments in advance when possible, and call if you can't make an appointment.

Every little thing can help alleviate a good, but overwhelmed, health care system.

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