The doctor shortage in British Columbia, where almost 700,000 people do not have access to a regular family physician, has left many with walk-in clinics as their only option for medical care. Yet walk-in clinics are also feeling the pressure of the doctor shortage, with long waits, reduced clinic hours, clinics quickly filling up for the day, and rushed patient–physician interactions. All of this can affect the quality and continuity of care patients receive. There can be major consequences, as well, for people trying to apply for Persons With Disabilities (PWD) status.
PWD is the disability benefit available through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The three-part PWD application form is long and complex, and relies heavily on detailed information provided by medical professionals.
What happens if you do not have a family doctor familiar with you and your medical conditions? Unfortunately, our experience shows, you may end up with an application of poor quality, or the physician may simply refuse to fill your application out.
So how can you get your PWD application filled out if you do not have a family physician? Here are some strategies and tips:
Start establishing a relationship with a walk-in clinic physician
If you are left with no choice other than to go to a walk-in clinic, try to go to the same walk-in clinic, and try to see the same doctor each time you go. Many clinics post the physicians’ schedules online, or you can call the clinic to get the schedule for the week. By seeing the same doctor, you can start building a relationship with them and they can start to build a better picture of your health and life. Go see the doctor a few times before asking them to fill out your PWD application, as they will likely want to know who you are before they fill out an application for you.
Explore alternatives to a walk-in clinic physician
Any physician registered and licensed to practice medicine in BC can fill out sections 2 and 3 of the PWD application, including specialists such as rheumatologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, and psychiatrists. Nurse practitioners can also fill out sections 2 and 3 of the application. If you are seeing a specialist or a nurse practitioner, consider asking them to fill out your application.
Write a self-report and bring it to the doctor
The first section of the PWD application is for the applicant’s self-report. Here you have the chance to describe your disability and how it impacts your life. Not only will your self-report help your application, but you can also give a copy to your doctor so that they have information about your daily life that they might not otherwise know. TAPS has volunteer disability advocates who are here to help you write the self-report, and they will make sure your self-report covers all the information the doctor may need to know to fill out your application.
Start keeping a daily log and bring it to the doctor
Each day for at least a couple of weeks, try to log what symptoms, pain levels, and restrictions you experienced that day. Bring that to the doctor to show what your day-to-day life looks like.
Get Section 3 filled out by someone else
Section 3 (also known as the Assessor’s Report) is the longest and most detailed part of the application, and it is very important for your application. Unlike Section 2, which has to be filled out by a physician, there are more options as to who can fill out Section 3. In addition to physicians, a registered psychologist, registered nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, registered social worker, or chiropractor can also fill out Section 3. If your physician does not know you well, it could be in your best interest to get Section 3 filled out by someone else.
If you do not have anyone that fits the criteria for filling out Section 3, the following community organizations have assessors available specifically to fill out PWD applications:
- Action Committee of Persons with Disabilities Call 250-383-4105 to make an appointment with their assessor. (Please note: ACPD is currently in the process of hiring a new assessor, so an assessor is not available until they complete the hiring process—call to confirm).
- Victoria Disability Resource Centre: An assessor is available on a first-come-first-served basis every Thursday at 1:30 pm – call 250-595-0044 for more information.
- Together Against Poverty Society: We have assessors available for clients working with a volunteer disability advocate.
Filling out a PWD application can be a hard process at the best of times, let alone when you do not have a family doctor. If you need any help with your application, please call TAPS at 250-361-3521.