Getting a medical appointment in Quebec is a struggle

My excruciating period cramps are somehow not the worst part of this experience

They say patience is a virtue, which I now lack after going through Quebec’s health care system. Graphic Joey Bruce

I’ve struggled with my menstrual cycle for over a decade now, and due to previous dismissals from doctors, I didn’t look into 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 distressing. I feel like my health and wellbeing aren’t taken seriously. because I’m young and healthy. I might be healthy but it doesn't mean I shouldn’t be able to access care to prevent future issues.

After I started missing my period for months at a time, I spoke to a few friends who urged me to see a medical professional. I finally spoke to a registered nurse on a video call who told me not to worry, and to check back in a few months if the problem persisted. Over the last two years, I’ve only had four periods.

While Concordia has a Health Services Clinic, it is only accessible from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, Mondays through Fridays by appointment only—both in person and virtually. The Health Services procedure for an appointment is complicated, with its many forms and questionnaires that require filling out prior to your visit. 

Concordia's Health Services website also says the clinic can provide clients with birth control in some circumstances, but it doesn’t explain what those circumstances must be. That means I might not even be able to go to a CLSC, since I don't have a family doctor with them, or at all. I’m left to navigate the maze that is the health care system on my own, as I try to figure out if I can get an appointment somewhere for a prescription.

In September, I began using Maple—which is the new Virtual Health Care provider for Concordia students selected by the Concordia Student Union. Within an hour of making a request for a referral, I spoke to a doctor who took my concerns seriously. He gave me a prescription note that allowed me to get an ultrasound of my uterus and a blood test. Using Maple also took less time out of my day as opposed to going through Quebec’s health system. 

I was told which clinic to contact for an ultrasound and had an appointment scheduled the next week. The blood test—which looked at my androgen levels, thyroid, sugar and cholesterol—was two weeks from when I booked it.

I’m left to navigate the maze that is the health care system on my own, 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 was left with just as many questions as I first started with. My results came back saying it could be possible Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

The cause of PCOS isn’t currently clear to doctors, but 1 in 10 people with a uterus deal with it. The symptoms include much of what I’ve been dealing with for years, including irregular periods, skin tags and difficulty with losing weight.

One way to treat PCOS is with birth control, but in order to obtain 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 appointment was confusing enough but  the whole process became even more confusing when I tried to get a prescription for birth control.

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

The RVSQ only allows for 48-hour windows, and there are almost never any appointments  available, leaving me waiting for medical care I can’t access.

This whole process has left me feeling like my health and well-being don’t matter. In 2016, the Quebec government implemented cuts that ended annual checkups for healthy people over the age of 5 without chronic health concerns. Because of them, I haven’t seen a doctor in over five years. Maybe if I had, I would have been able to deal with my health concerns years ago.

While I’m deeply grateful that I have access to health services at all, the wait for non-urgent issues and mental health care have left me wondering where the resources we pay for are going.