Being aware and taking care
When something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t
It was late Friday afternoon when the call came in. Dr. Adel Belhaj, a family physician in a central Edmonton clinic, was looking forward to heading home after a full day of seeing patients.
The caller said she was a Saskatchewan doctor who had a patient visiting Alberta. The patient had a chronic pain condition and had run out of her medication. Would Dr. Belhaj please refill her prescriptions for Percocet (an opiate pain reliever) and Zopiclone (a sedative)?
While wanting to be helpful, Dr. Belhaj was immediately wary. “A few months ago, I read something in The Messenger about a patient trying to get narcotics by pretending to be a doctor. I remembered that.” The timing of the call just before the weekend also raised a flag.
He said he’d need to see the patient first, asked for her name and suggested she make an appointment. As soon as he hung up, Dr. Belhaj tried to call the doctor back to verify the request but the clinic she worked at was already closed. So he called the CPSA.
On Monday the College contacted the Saskatchewan clinic. Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Monica Weller spoke with the physician named by Dr. Belhaj. That doctor had no knowledge of the call or of the patient she’d supposedly referred to him. With the request discredited, Dr. Weller called Dr. Belhaj to let him know his instincts had been right.
Dr. Belhaj never heard from the “doctor” or the patient again, and he feels good about doing the right thing. “Narcotics have a street value, plus there’s the concern about overdose,” he notes.
Dr. Weller agrees, adding, “It’s important to take extra care with drugs that can cause a lot of harm.”