Why is it so difficult to get a nerve pain diagnosis in Vancouver, BC?
January 16, 2014 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a distressed friend, Vancouver BC. Call her Laura. She's suffering from a long term chronic nerve pain issue which has recently gotten worse (the past year). She doesn't want a diagnosis from the community. What she needs is advice on how to get a diagnosis from a relevant doctor so that she can qualify for some kind of disability assistance.

Laura can no longer either sit or stand for any length of time to the extent that she can no longer work etc and thus is in serious financial trouble (everything from loan payments to basic food + rent concerns). Indeed, whenever I visit her, she's lying down.

She's been seeing her family doctor about it but thus far he is unwilling to sign off on a diagnosis saying that only a neurologist can do this. But Laura's now been waiting since early October to see a neurologist and just discovered that the appointment she thought she had has been declined because she doesn't fit that particular doctor's expertise. Back to square zero.

Is this a case of Laura's family doctor messing up?
Is this kind of thing typical for nerve pain disorders?
Are there any ways to fast-track getting a diagnosis in an "emergency" situation?

Finally, what are her welfare/income assistance options while she waits for something to happen? She's recently informed me that she can't pay next month's rent and is starting to seriously freak out. Laura's generally a very relaxed person so this is telling me she's in a genuine emergency situation.
posted by philip-random to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Has she already done the online self-assessment for BC disability benefits?

Also I wonder if she might have better luck getting her doctor to refer her to a pain clinic? Their wait times seem to be shorter that what you are describing to see a specialist. A lot of their services appear to be covered by her provincial health plan.

She might want to call (or have someone call) some pain clinics to find out if their doctors or specialists can help her apply for disability benefits.
posted by Ouisch at 3:27 PM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: Call the BC Centre for Ability. They would be able to help. They may assign a case worker who can help her navigate this maze and even advocate for her (especially if she is too ill to do so).
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2014

I had some nerve issues a couple of years ago, and my family doctor set me up with a neurologist at Royal Jubilee in Victoria very quickly.

It's worth it to try to get a referral from a different doctor, such as one at your local walk-in clinic.

I wonder if she has a herniated disc? Aside from surgery, which is a last resort, the only "cure" for the condition is 4 months of bed rest.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:12 PM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: They also have a complex pain clinic at VGH. Get a referral to a hospital program for higher chance of success.

And no don't go to a local walk-in clinic if your friend lives on East side. Go to the walk-in at Cambie and Broadway near VGH. Better neighbourhood = better referrals.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:14 PM on January 16, 2014

Also - do call the family doctor, let them know what happened, ask for a different referral. At the same time go to a good walk-in clinic and get their referral. But yes it does take that long for an "elective" appointment for a specialist in BC. the only way to get in faster is to be closer to death, sick enough to make enough ER visits that they finally decide to admit you, or to be injured in traumatic accident. Can't recommend any of those though.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:24 PM on January 16, 2014

I don't know about BC, and I'm the furthest possible from being a doctor, but even though it's chronic, if she's unable to tolerate sitting, and going to the ER is the only shot she's got of seeing someone with the knowledge to even approach her problem within a month, hell yes emergency.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:20 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just spoke to Laura. She thanks everyone so far. A few notes:

She just did the online assessment for BC Disability Assessments a couple of days ago and is awaiting a response (theoretically by the end of the week).

She's also fairly sure she knows what the problem is based on an assessment that happened a while ago and then corroborated by further research, but (long and complicated story made short) that original doctor was not a neurologist and her family doctor wants a neurologist to offer a diagnosis.

Also, it's not a health emergency per say. She can stand long enough to do the dishes, cook a quick meal etc, do some cleaning. She can also sit for a few minutes, long enough to eat a meal etc. And so far, sleeping is mostly okay. What she can't do is stand/sit long enough for any kind of normal job. And travel is particularly excruciating for her (as it always involves sitting or standing), so anything more than a five or ten minute bus ride is kind of torture.

So the emergency is an everyday life thing. How to pay the rent etc. Hence the key issue is getting a diagnosis and then hopefully some kind of disability assessment.

She does like the idea of just going to a good walk-in clinic in the right part of town.
posted by philip-random at 8:58 PM on January 16, 2014

Try a doctor in the U.S. Vancouver is very close to Bellingham, and there are several good options through PeaceHealth, Northwest Neurology, and others. Wait times tend to be shorter, and they are very welcoming of Canadian patients.
posted by Capri at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2014

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