A Vancouver man advertised a $5,000 reward to anyone who could help connect him to a family doctor.
Gary Shuster suffers from a rare metabolic condition that requires consistent monitoring from a physician or else he could suffer kidney damage and land in the hospital for weeks.
“It’s another one of these invisible illnesses. Even for someone who specializes in neuromuscular diseases, they often haven’t seen someone with this particular mutation. So you need a doctor to essentially quarterback the team of specialists,” said Shuster.
When his downtown Vancouver family doctor closed his practice, and a program for high-risk patients told him it could be six months before he even got information about a possible replacement, Shuster panicked.
“Six months with a condition where your muscles start digesting themselves and potentially causing kidney failure…six months is too long. Six weeks is too long,” he said.
He recalled seeing media reports about a Vancouver Island senior who found her husband a family doctor by putting an ad in her local newspaper.
Shuster decided to do the same, but he took it a step further. His ad in Monday’s Vancouver Sun offered a $5,000 “finders fee” to anyone who connected him with a family doctor who would take him on with his condition.
While doctors can’t take payment for taking on new patients, Shuster figured the cash incentive for a successful referral to one might help his chances. But to his surprise, no one who replied to the ad wanted that reward.
“I had many people reach out to me, and the majority of them said in (the) first line I’m not interested in the money, I have no desire to take that, but here is someone you might want to talk to, here’s a lead,” said Shuster.
Thanks to that ad, he has now found a family doctor who is willing to take him on.
“This was so reassuring, I am going to be cared for,” said Shuster. “I don’t know what the disease will do to me in the future, but at least I know it won’t be due to people not understanding it, or me not being able to see a doctor when I know I need one. ”
While he didn’t end up paying the $5,000 reward, he doesn’t think anyone should be desperate enough to find a family doctor, that they consider it.
“The fact is, not everyone can afford to take out an ad. Not everyone can afford to pay a bounty. And all of us paid for this care with our taxes anyhow,” said Shuster.
He’s a dual citizen who left the US partly because he wanted to return to Canada for universal health care. Now it’s a system that he fears is beginning to fail.