By Lisa Murphy
You know that your newborn will need to see a physician within three to five days after the birth, but which one? Given today’s limited number of available community-care pediatricians (those available to be your child’s main caregiver, as opposed to specialists seen only on referral)—and even family doctors in many rural areas—often the decision simply comes down to who is accepting new patients. (In Canada, about 60 per cent of children are cared for by family docs and 40 per cent by pediatricians, says Dr. Emmett Francoeur, a developmental pediatrician at Montreal Children’s Hospital.)
But if you live in a large city, you may be able to choose between a family doctor whom you like and trust and a pediatrician recommended by a friend or your OB/GYN.
“I hemmed and hawed because the local hospital has a family practice with weekend hours, but there was also a pediatrician accepting patients less than a five-minute walk from our house,” says Toronto mom Robin Forbes, who ruled out her otherwise-reliable family doc when he admitted that he hadn’t had any pregnant patients in ages (this, after handing her an expired packet of Materna vitamins).
While picking the right primary health-care provider for your little bundle of joy is a highly personal decision, the checklist and chart below may help you choose. Of course, in many situations and provinces, it’s not an either/or decision. Your family doctor may refer your child to a pediatrician for special care; you may see a nurse practitioner at a public-health centre; or, you may consult a naturopathic doctor for a second opinion about an ongoing concern.
Plus, any seasoned parent will tell you that you’ll probably be using (and abusing) a telephone-triage system such as Telehealth Ontario or BC NurseLine, as well as your local emergency or walk-in clinic. (Going to the same place consistently at least means they’ll have a medical history on file, even if you see different physicians or nurse practitioners each time.)
Keeping a medical journal of your wee one’s appointments, immunizations and any ongoing concerns can also be helpful. What’s really critical is that you clearly communicate with the health-care providers so that everyone treating your child knows exactly what therapies or medications he has taken. This can help avoid antibiotic resistance or harmful adverse reactions to drugs or natural products.
YOUR HEALTH-EXPERT CHECKLIST. IS SHE/HE: