Canada: how to speed up a specialist referral?
September 9, 2020 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm a new Canadian permanent resident, so I'm still figuring things out. I have persistent knee and leg pain, and last month I went to a walk-in clinic and was referred to a rheumatologist. I know that even in the best of times, specialist referrals can take months, but is there anything else I can do to see one sooner?

I'm young - late 20s - and since June I've been dealing with all sorts of pain, mostly concentrated on my legs. The symptoms come and go in waves and have varied, but there have been days where I've been bedridden and it's felt like my knees were under attack and bruises were popping up all over my legs.

I was still able to fly into Canada last month and now I'm walking around Toronto as a new permanent resident (after my requisite 2 week quarantine, of course). I went to a walk-in clinic, and the doctor suspected that I might have something autoimmune going on, so he wrote up a referral for a rheumatologist. He also prescribed me Naproxen, which has been helping, but whatever this is feels degenerative - my knees are feeling weaker, and somehow bonier.

From my googling, it looks like referrals to specialists, especially rheumatologists, often took years even in pre-pandemic times. I've called the clinic back to confirm that they sent out the referral, so I'm officially in the system, but short of waiting, is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

I read somewhere that I could do some of the legwork by googling specialists and calling each office to ask if they're accepting new patients, is this true? Are there reputable private clinics with faster access to specialists? Depending on the costs, my family might be able to help support me.
posted by facehugger to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So I'm not a medical professional so I could be wrong, but my understanding is that no, there's no way for you to get in to your referral faster. Your doctor can expedite the process sometimes depending on the seriousness of your condition, but the backbone of socialized healthcare is that you can't skip the line by paying.

Sometimes people will book appointments and drive to the states to see specialists if they want, but I don't think that's possible in covid.

Your best bet is probably for you to spend some legwork time finding a primary GP who can start testing and managing your condition and care in the meantime, and then if you need to be expedited or hospitalized they can help with that.
posted by euphoria066 at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Welcome to Canada - sorry you're not feeling so great.

If you know the specialist's contact details, you could call and indicate that you're interested in cancellations. You might only get a day or less notice, and you kind of pretty much have to go when they say. This is far from ideal if you're having zero-energy days, though. It's quite random: my endocrinologist is booked up a year ahead, but I was able to get a surgery appointment with the best-of-the-best thyroid surgeon in about a week.

Other provinces have quite different healthcare provision. Even around Toronto there's lots of variation in wait times.
posted by scruss at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Not sure which province you are in, but there will be a website to help you get connected with family doctors in your area who are accepting patients. They are the key for care coordination, and to euphoria066’s comment, can order testing to get the ball rolling. Best of luck!
posted by walkinginsunshine at 12:40 PM on September 9, 2020

Your best bet is to find a family physician. A good one should have knowledge of specialists' wait times and be willing to work the system for you to some degree. You can get in to specialists double-quick if the right GP is advocating for you. There is a service called Health Care Connect that can connect you with a family physician who's accepting new patients. This is how I found my current doc.
posted by sid at 12:50 PM on September 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

I also got a rheum referral in Toronto. Mine took about six months from referral to appointment. This was pre-pandemic with a referral to a doctor at Women's College. I would recommend calling the specialist's office and saying you are interested in cancellations.
posted by hepta at 5:39 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Any history on this vintage clothing brand?   |   Vow Renewal? More like vow re-NO-wal Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.