Guest Blog by Hayley Pelletier

Each year thousands of young Canadians travel from their home community and province to attend college or university elsewhere. With their academic preparation in mind, many do not think about how they will access healthcare in their new city, province or territory.

In 2016, I was one of these young Canadians; I moved to from Ontario to British Columbia without the slightest thought about how I will access care if I needed it. Shortly before the move, I was diagnosed with a chronic condition called “Freiburg’s disease”.  With a care plan in place, I was informed that I should not worry about receiving healthcare in another province, that it will be no trouble.

That was far from my lived reality. Upon moving to British Columbia, I was first challenged with the inability to find a family doctor. To this day, I have still been unable to find a family doctor. Unable to find a doctor to take me on as a patient, I resorted to using the University walk-in clinic where I would see a rotating doctor each time I visited.

Without a permanent doctor and since my illness is largely invisible, I was often forgotten and felt that my case was slipping between the cracks. In addition, the doctor at the walk-in clinic was very unwilling to give me a referral to a specialist without knowing my medical background. I eventually managed to the get a referral to see a specialist and was placed on a wait-list.

It would be a year before I had the first appointment with the specialist. In the meantime, my condition was progressing at an increase rate and I found myself having to withdraw from social and recreational activities that worsened the condition.

Having spoken to many of my university and college friends studying across the country, it became clear to me that I was not alone. The realization that students are often left without sufficient navigation support within the healthcare system is likely not new, but it is one that is often under acknowledged.

As Canadians we are entitled to access to health care that is provided in a fair and equitable manner without discrimination based on medical history or social profile. Therefore, I encourage individuals like me who are experiencing difficulty accessing care while studying in another province, to be an advocate for your own health rights. One way to do this is to make your voice heard, ensure that policy makers are aware that our student communities are experiencing a gap in care.

Hayley has a background in general Health Sciences and is set to begin a Master of Public Health at the University of Toronto this fall. She has a passion for addressing health care inequities throughout the country, especially those affecting vulnerable and marginalized populations.

This blog is part of a series on youth health across Canada.