Getting a medical appointment in Quebec is a struggle

My excruciating menstrual cramps aren’t the worst part of this experience somehow

They say that patience is a virtue, which I miss now after having gone through the health system in Quebec. Graphic Joey Bruce

I have struggled with my menstrual cycle for over a decade now, and due to previous doctor layoffs I haven’t considered medical treatment for a while.

Being told not to worry about something that is such a big part of my life has been demoralizing and painful. I feel like my health and well-being is not taken seriously. because I am young and in good health. I may be healthy, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to access care to avoid future problems.

After starting to miss my period for months, I spoke to a few friends who urged me to see a healthcare professional. I finally spoke to a registered nurse on a video call who told me not to worry and to check in a few months to see if the problem persisted. In the past two years I have only had four periods.

Although Concordia has a health services clinic, it is only accessible from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday by appointment only, in person and virtually. The Health Services appointment procedure is complicated, with many forms and questionnaires to fill out before your visit.

The Concordia Health Services website also states that the clinic may provide clients with contraception in certain circumstances, but it does not explain what those circumstances must be. This means that I may not even be able to go to a CLSC, since I don’t have a family doctor with them, or not at all. I find myself alone in the maze of the health care system as I try to figure out if I can get an appointment somewhere for a prescription.

In September, I started using Maple, the new virtual healthcare provider for Concordia students selected by the Concordia Student Union. Within an hour of making a referral request, I spoke to a doctor who took my concerns seriously. He gave me a prescription note that allowed me to do an ultrasound of my uterus and a blood test. Using Maple also took me less time during the day than going through the Quebec health system.

I was told which clinic to contact for an ultrasound and I had an appointment scheduled for the following week. The blood test – which looked at my androgen, thyroid, sugar, and cholesterol levels – took place two weeks after I booked.

I find myself alone in the maze of the health care system as I try to figure out if I can get an appointment somewhere for a prescription.

Fortunately, both were covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec., But when I got my results, I had as many questions as when I started. My results came back saying that it could be possible polycystic ovary syndrome.

The cause of PCOS is currently unclear to doctors, but 1 in 10 people with a uterus experience it. Symptoms include much of what I’ve been dealing with for years, including irregular periods, skin tags, and difficulty losing weight.

One way to treat PCOS is with birth control, but to get a medical prescription you need to see a doctor or nurse in person. And this is where it gets difficult. Navigating how to get that first date was confusing enough, but the whole process got even more confusing when I tried to get a birth control prescription.

Appointments are more difficult than ever to make, due to COVID-19 precautions put in place to keep health services somewhat regulated. I tried using Clic Santé to book a consultation, but it was not an option. I called 811 — Info-Santé number — and was told to use the Quebec Medical Appointment Planner or to call the CLSC closest to me and speak to the nurse on duty.

RVSQ only allows 48 hour windows, and there are hardly any appointments available, leaving me waiting for medical care that I cannot access.

This whole process made me feel like my health and well-being didn’t matter. In 2016, the Quebec government implemented cuts that put an end to annual examinations for healthy people over 5 years of age without chronic health problems. Because of them, I haven’t seen a doctor for over five years. Maybe if I had, I could have handled my health issues years ago.

While I am deeply grateful to have access to health services, the expectation of elective issues and mental health care has made me wonder where the resources we pay are going.