Changing Doctors When You’re Chronically Ill

For those with “invisible” illness, it’s difficult to find a doctor who believes you’re sick – not just depressed, not just anxious, not just tired – but sick.

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So what happens when you find that Physician and then they move on?

I started out by seeing a Naturopathic Doctor in Victoria because I needed nutritional care. My previous doctor had supplied me with enough of my prescriptions to last for 3 months, so that wasn’t as big a concern for me. Dr. Holewa let me know that a new GP would be opening his practice in the same clinic she was located and I called to be put on the waiting list to belong…news about the new doctor had already started circulating in the community and everyone was signing up! 

I was still able to get an appointment though, for the last day before the Christmas holidays in 2013. It was basically an interview between the Doctor and me, to see if we were a fit and if he was willing to take me on as a patient, given my challenging health history. Dr. Leong and I really hit it off and he agreed to accept me into his practice (along with my husband). What a relief!

Now, I don’t know what it’s like to try and find a doctor where you live. If you are in the USA, I believe it’s fairly easy. The problem is finding the RIGHT doctor…one who meshes with you in terms of beliefs and who blends with your personality. You want strong medical knowledge, a good office staff, decent parking and hours and the feeling that you’ve found “the best” when you see him/her. I found all of that with Dr. Leong and so we began a 5-year patient/doctor relationship that took us through all my health problems, including my hip replacement, brush with skin cancer and more. And then one day, he told me he was leaving the practice and moving to a smaller town up-Island. 

 

Closing The Practice

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The word I heard most from his other patients has been “devastating,” I absolutely concurred. Dr. Leong was highly respected and well loved and the thought of being without him was almost too much to take in. His main reason for leaving was that he wanted to live in a smaller town, and at first, I thought I would simply continue to see him, as his new practice was only a 30-minute drive away. The reality though was that there were no buses that took me there and I would be forever reliant on my husband taking time off work to drive me. That just wasn’t feasible so not only was I losing a good Doctor, I was going to have to find a new one too (there were no plans to replace him in the clinic). 

What’s the big deal? Well, as I said, there is a shortage of doctors in my Province. Recommendations filled my email, but the fact was no other doctor in town was taking on new patients. It looked like most of us were going to be resigned to using Urgent Care for our medical treatment. The thought of that filled me with dismay. I needed a good working relationship with my Doctor because of my history and that simply wouldn’t happen in an Urgent Care facility. 

Then one day, about three weeks after first receiving the news, word came from the office receptionist that there was a new doctor in town who would be taking on a limited number of new patients. My clinic’s receptionist faxed the referral to the office where this new Doctor would be setting up – not that far from where I was currently going. It seemed that this Doctor had requested from several medical offices that they send their “best patients” to her…and I was one of them! Dr. Penny Wilson agreed to take me on along with my husband! What a relief!! She is here for a year from Australia but promised that if she decided to go back home at the end of the year, one of the other doctors in the new clinic would take us on. My relief was immense.

 

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Conclusion

For those of you who are going through this situation right now, you have my sympathy and my empathy. It can be frightening to be left without a safety net. Keep asking at other offices about being put on a waiting list, and check with your family and friends to see if their doctor can take you on because of your relationship and closeness.

So what DO you do when your doctor leaves and there is no doctor to take over? I wish I had an answer for that. Many doctors have replacements come in when they leave, or the clinic they are leaving hires someone new. When that’s not in the works, you can be left scrambling and in the case of being a Patient with Chronic Pain, that’s so frustrating. Frequent visits are normal because of medication changes, new symptoms to be checked and old symptoms revisited. My best advice is to check with the Doctor who is leaving and ask if there is a succession plan. What do THEY recommend you do?

Having a Doctor leave his practice is a scary prospect. I hope that you never find yourself in the same position I was in, but if you do…I hope it works out well like it did for me. Keep the faith…remember,

There is always hope 

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13 thoughts on “Changing Doctors When You’re Chronically Ill

  1. I just went through this with my gastrointestinal doctor. My previous one retired, and it took me almost two years to find another one. Good thing I stayed healthy during that time. Great read.

  2. I had an OB-Gyn for years and found every pap and pelvic super painful. I switched doctors two years ago, and never had any since. Now I’m learning my new doctor is retiring. Back to the drawing board.

  3. We experienced this last summer when our family practice closed down. I have to say I was more than a little nervous. I asked my doctor for recommendations and he gave us a couple of different ones, at two different practices. We were lucky; one of the doctors he recommended is a DO and she accepted both my hubby and me. Changing doctors can be difficult, but I think the important thing to remember is, the new doctor doesn’t have to be permanent, and you can choose someone else if this one doesn’t work out. Of course, I live in the US. I’m not sure how it works in other places….

  4. I had the same doctor for a number of years in the Uk…Whom I saw very infrequently and now I live in Thailand …Fingers crossed I haven’t needed to find one yet in 7 years…Although there are plenty of doctors surgeries around …I guess If I had to I would ask others for recommendations …Let’s hope I don’t need to 🙂 It sounds like you were very lucky to find yours 🙂

  5. I’m so glad you managed to find Dr Leong initially. I would have been inclined to follow him around the country and move wherever he did 😆 You’re absolutely right about how challenging it can be to find a doctor who listens, believes you, wants to help, has an open mind. It’s gut-wrenching when you finally find one that’s either okay or good, only to discover they’ve left. This happened to me about 3 years ago, then again last year. As you say too with a shortage of doctors in your area, that’s happening more and more here in the UK, too. It’s a worrying state of affairs to say the least. I think the only thing you can really do is try to stay positive, keep your mind open and hope for the best, but persevere if you can’t find a doctor or one that listens, you will eventually and it’s worth fighting for. xx

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