Why I Pay $3,700 A Year For a Private Health Clinic

"I know that if I email the clinic, I’ll get a response within a few hours, and I can refill my prescriptions via email as well."
BY CAROLINE TOPPERMAN
JUNE 2024-PRIVATIZATION OF HEALTHCARE-TOPPERMAN-BY MAY TRUONG_CROP 3

May 16, 2023

“For years, I knew something was up with my thyroid. In 2010, I started feeling awful: I was cold all the time and super fatigued. My joints hurt, and I started putting on weight uncontrollably. When I went to a walk-in clinic in Vancouver, the doctor dismissed my concerns and said I was just stressed. Blood tests showed my iron was low, and I received supplements and shots—but nothing for my thyroid. 

In 2013, my husband and I moved to Poland, where I got blood work done. The moment the technicians saw my results, they said I needed an endocrinologist right away. They were terribly apologetic: their doctor, they said, wasn’t available that day, but she could see me the next. I couldn’t believe my luck. The doctor said my thyroid levels were too high and asked me what medication I was on. I told her I wasn’t on any. “But you’re from Canada,” she said, in utter disbelief. Only then did I receive medication for an issue that had plagued me for years. I finally had some relief. 

I moved to Waterloo, Ontario, in 2018 and, eventually, my medication ran out. I went to a walk-in clinic, where the doctor grilled me, saying she had to make sure I wasn’t “milking the system.” I was shocked: it’s not like thyroid meds are a street drug. At this point, I was so frustrated. I put myself on the waitlist for a family doctor, where I remained for three years. It wasn’t until I was preparing to move to Toronto in 2021 that I was finally matched with one—in Waterloo. 

Eventually I decided, Screw it, I need to have a consistent doctor. I’m going to pay for this. I signed up with an executive health clinic, where I was immediately matched with a doctor, as well as a coordinator to sort out all my appointments and follow up with specialists. 

The whole package costs me $3,700 per year. I know that if I email them, I’ll get a response within a few hours, and I can refill my prescriptions via email as well. My doctor is so thorough: when we speak on the phone I’ll be ready to hang up, and she’ll still be asking me questions. It’s unfortunate I have to pay for that—it means fewer vacations, fewer nice things. But it’s necessary. I needed to find a doctor who wouldn’t blow me off.” 

—As told to Anthony Milton


This article originally appeared in the June issue of Maclean’s, alongside Christina Frangou’s investigation into the growing world of private health care in Canada.

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