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A message of gratitude from Patient Advocate Maggie Keresteci 

December 18, 2023

Ms. Keresteci originally shared this message during the December 15, 2023 Changing the Way We Work (COVID-19) Community of Practice for family physicians. 

About 18 months ago I went from being a caregiver to being a caregiver and the patient when I developed some unusual but significant sequalae from a COVID infection. What has allowed me to get the care I need, despite the fact I’ve been in and out of numerous emergency departments, is that for the first time in a decade, I have a family doctor. 

It’s not lost on Ontarians that primary care is in crisis and it’s clear to me how stressful life has been for each of you. I don’t know how you do it, but I am grateful you do. I know how important a longitudinal relationship with primary care is to patients – while my experiences are anecdotal– they reflect what I hear from patients the patients and caregivers I talk to everyday.  

Let me tell you a quick story – We live in rural Ontario, so my family doctor also delivers babies and provides care in our local emergency department, where he expertly cared for my grandson when he broke his arm. Auggie came along with me to one of my appointments several months later, sitting in the waiting room when our doctor came in and took the time to stop by and chat with a 5-year-old. He asked him about his arm and got a demo right there of his muscles that are “much stronger than Grandmas”. That exchange made Auggie’s day, and he still talks about it. That’s exactly how relationship is nurtured and how trust is built. 

While primary care clinicians in Ontario continue to deliver on what patients need, you do this within the confines of a system that is not delivering on what’s needed to support you – you deliver despite the system, not because of it. One big lesson that stands out from the pandemic is that in order to crisis-proof the system we need to crisis-proof primary care; to strengthen and properly fund your work, that forms the foundation of the system 

I’ve watched this primary care community step up to the plate as advocates for your patients and as advocates for system change – I can’t begin to tell you how much I respect you for this. I know advocacy isn’t always comfortable and it isn’t what you trained for, but you’ve done it time and again – thank you. The compassionate advocacy of primary care clinicians has given me hope. Hope because I believe you’ve started a movement to transform healthcare in this province that there’s no going back from 

I know you’re tired and frustrated. I beg you to stay and to keep building on what you’re doing here, because we need you.  

I’d like to end with a note of gratitude. I thank my family doctor and I want to thank each of you for the care you give to your patients, and for the part you’re playing in organizing and leading a necessary transformation of healthcare.  You make a difference every single day. Your difference is your ability to care, to form relationship and as a community to solve what has looked to be unsolvable to others. I believe the difference you are making will help us to shape a new story about the experiences of patients and caregivers in our health system. 

Thank you for being the difference we need. It matters to us as individual patients and it matters to Ontarians who depend on the health system today and in the future. 

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