This past September, a group of medical residents at my institution began seeing primary care patients at a free clinic down the street from our tertiary academic medical center (“hospital clinic”). Far from my expectations, the care we are able to provide at our free clinic is in many ways better than our hospital clinic. Somewhat paradoxically, the experience has given me a taste of what the practice of medicine is like in single-payer healthcare systems like Canada’s.
When I volunteered to start seeing patients at a nearby free clinic, I had little idea what I was signing up for. The term “free clinic” conjured up memories as a medical student in East Baltimore tending to patients at a local homeless shelter with severe frostbite or at a student-run clinic rummaging through the storage room for anti-hypertensive medications. I expected our patients to be terribly poor, the clinic to be little more than a warehouse, for supplies and medications to be few and far between, and for the care we provided to be more about putting out fires than delivering high-quality primary care.
But the place I have come to cherish working at is none of these things. A surprising number of our patients have stable lives and regular jobs — it’s just that their jobs don’t offer health insurance (including some who work in healthcare!) Patients call for appointments. When they arrive they are triaged by a nurse who takes their vitals and asks about their chief complaint before putting them in an exam room. We provide comprehensive primary care complete with routine lab tests for cholesterol and diabetes, age appropriate vaccinations, and referrals for mammograms and colon cancer screening. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at BeyondApples.Org*