I would like to share a short story that raised several concerns for me just before Christmas. On Tuesday, Dec. 24 at around 11 a.m., a woman called CPSA upset because her mother was being denied a prescription for her pain medication. In her words, the doctor said, “CPSA would come after him if he prescribed any opioids.” According to her, they were told if they want a prescription, they would have to go to the emergency department.
Not only would it be an inappropriate use of the healthcare system to send the patient to emergency, this type of practice does not support the concept of the patient’s medical home.
Now, I realize this is only one side of the story, but it didn’t surprise me because it’s not the only time I’ve heard a story like this.
Since I had only the one side of the story, I wanted to be sure the doctor was aware that CPSA would not “come after him” so I gave him a call in hopes of reassuring him that he would be okay to prescribe this patient her pain medication over the holidays.
As I expected, there was more to the story, but it was clear the physician had provided care to the patient in the past and was aware of her chronic pain needs. It was Christmas Eve and it seemed reasonable that he provide a short-term prescription for follow up after Christmas, so I reassured him CPSA would not be coming after him. I assured him that I would make a note of that on his file. What surprised me at that point was that he had already called the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) to ask for legal advice. According to him, they had recommended he not provide the prescription.
Over the past few years, I’ve been very impressed with the quality of information CPSA advisors provide to physicians, so I suspect there is more to that part of the story as well. What amazed me though, was the fact that the organization he chose to reach out to was CMPA, not CPSA.
It’s not my intention for this anecdote to come across as a negative comment about this physician’s choice to contact CMPA. Rather, I am sharing this story because of what it tells me about the approachability of CPSA.
Last year I shared with you CPSA’s new logo and brand, and what it represents. I discussed how this was not about a change in a logo or the work that we do, but a change in how we do things. Our goal is for CPSA to be understood as transparent, approachable, informed, thorough, collaborative and consistent in our work—something our whole team works towards each and every day.
My conversation with this physician confirmed to me that this change was necessary and I believe that CPSA is headed in the right direction.
If a physician’s first instinct is to call their lawyer instead of CPSA when they are unsure of best medical practice, CPSA is not very approachable. CPSA should be the place both physicians and Albertans think of first to call for advice, which is why we are committed to doing things differently.
We envision a future where CPSA is the first call people make to get the advice, guidance and support they need when it comes to the practice of medicine in Alberta.
Your comments are appreciated.