Being a Doctor in Ottawa Today Means Having to Deal with an Entirely Different Set of Often-Stressful Circumstances


By Susan Sherring

The Ottawa Sun

October 16, 2002


Telling a patient who's in agonizing pain that the hip replacement surgery they so desperately want won't take place for several months can be a stressful piece of news for a doctor to deliver.

But it's one of the new realities of being a doctor in Canada today. "These are different times. Pa­tients aren't getting what they need all the time," said Dr. Rose Goldstein, a rheumatologist at the Ottawa Hospital General campus.


"When you're talking about hip replacement and you're telling them they have to wait, it's hard to say 'no' to them, and I guess it's hard for the patient to then say 'thank you.' It's not al­ways very pleasant."

Goldstein, also an assistant di­rector at the University of Otta­wa's Faculty of Medicine, is one of the driving forces behind this year's Physician Appreciation Day, proclaimed for today by Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli.


But this day isn't simply about Smile At Your Doc or Hug Your Physician Day! Goldstein cautioned doctors aren't trying to send out the wrong message in having a day of appreciation for themselves. They're not looking for sympathy and aren't crying the blues. She said most of them "love" their jobs - and they acknowledge they are generally well paid. Despite that, being a doctor in Ottawa today means having to deal with an entirely different set of often-stressful circumstances that didn’t exist before. Besides the dwindling health resources, for many in Ottawa, being a doctor means coping with the merger of the Ottawa hospitals.


“It was a major merger for us. And like a merger in any big place, to experience that kind of major change, there’s always going to be growing pains,” Goldstein said.


The appreciation day itself was originally the brainchild of Dr. Mamta Gautam, who is also the founding director of the Faculty Wellness Program. “we are happy to work harder and try to do more with less, as long as we end up providing optimal patient care. Lately, this has not always been possible and physician morale seems to be at an all-time low,” said Gautam.


The Faculty Wellness Program (FWP) is a working group of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine which is committed to the enhancement of the well-being of the faculty. The FWP will provide assistance to faculty with personal or professional problems, like stress and burnout, depression and anxiety or alcohol, and drug issues.


Goldstein said doctors today are dealing with a number of new realities, and decreasing health resources is just one of them. But despite that, she said many doctors choose to stay here in Canada or return to Canada after a stint in the Unted States because they believe strongly in universal health care.


“Here, you might have to say something is delayed, but there you are saying no to people who don’t have the money,” she said. "It's really quality of life and a commitment to universal health care. Universal health care is a very Canadian idea. I've worked in the U.S. I didn't like it. It's a different world, very different."


Chiarelli's proclamation is a recognition of the demands being placed on physicians and the va­riety of roles they play - everything from providing leadership to protecting the public's health sys­tem, their work in both medical research and medical education, along with juggling their own roles in their private lives - whether as musicians, artists, parents or chil­dren. Goldstein said it's important not just for doctors to be appreciated by those around them, but for doctors to take care of themselves, suggesting they're sometimes the very worst patients.


"Many of them don't even have their own family doctors. Charity starts at home and that's part of what we're trying to get across here. If you don't take care of your­ self, you can't take care of others."