Making the healthcare system work

It is well-known to the McGill community that dealing with McGill health services can sometimes turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth. To find out how wait times are affecting students, The Bull & Bear sat down with various stakeholders to hear what they had to say about their experiences.

McGill has a very high percentage of international students who don’t have access to provincial health care except through the university (though some choose to opt-out). They therefore likely don’t have a family doctor that they can go to and even if students have the potential to access to provincial health care, the wait to be assigned a family doctor is currently over 400 days. It is for this reason that many students go to the clinic despite waiting several hours to be seen; they have nowhere else to turn.

Currently, the clinic works on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, making waiting extremely difficult for students with more pressing medical concerns. Alua Kulenova, a U0 Arts student, explained that she “feel[s] like there should be priority-based waiting instead of first come first serve.” She told The Bull & Bear, “I know everyone has reasons to go to the clinic, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting up at 6 AM to go, but … some are much more immediate than others.”

I know everyone has reasons to go to the clinic, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting up at 6 AM to go, but … some are much more immediate than others.

One U0 Education student had a memorable yet common experience this past December. “My friend started throwing up in her dorm around midnight about a month ago. She had a flu the day before and she doesn’t handle sickness well,” she explained. “We thought that it was better to be safe than sorry, so we decided to take her to the nearest hospital. We Ubered to Montreal General, and ended up waiting for nine hours before my friend could be seen.”

She went on to explain a subsequent discussion about the under-staffed status of the hospital, saying: “The attendant explained to us that it was dependent on the fact that there was only one doctor working that night, and they were busy with patients that needed more immediate attention. But they were definitely very understaffed for the amount of people that were also in the waiting room.”

Although getting to see a doctor in Montreal or on campus is difficult, students requiring medical attention while abroad face an entirely different challenge.

U3 student Noah Powers told The Bull & Bear about his experience studying abroad in the Netherlands last year. He tried to claim reimbursement from McGill after a trip to the hospital for some blood tests. He didn’t receive his reimbursement for months, and eventually decided to call the insurance company directly to figure out what was going on.