Canadian MD graduates have increased by 60% over the past 10 years (i.e. 1,757 to 2,804). It would seem that this should mean that less patients would be flooding walk in clinics and emergency rooms with minor ailments.

Contrary to that notion, the percentage of men, women and children who have regular family doctors are not increasing at a sizable rate. Why would that be?

Perhaps it is because a good proportion of clinic have a ‘Walk-in’ option in their offices. Therefore patients choose to go to the most convenient clinic to their current location.  

Or perhaps it is because the methods for remunerating doctors are changing across the country. Ontario for example, is using capitation, i.e., compensation based on the number of patients on a doctor’s roster, regardless of how often a patient sees their doctor. This allows doctors to take their time with each patient, since they are no longer paid per service required and each patient seen. Keep in mind, that there is a cap on the number of patients per doctor’s roster.

In any case, when Canadians need health services they need access to a doctor, and more and more people, are frequenting walk-in clinics.

Walk-in clinics have historically been an emergency resource for after-hours services, or for times when waiting a few days to see your GP would not be reasonable.  But today, with few doctors accepting new patients, there has been a significant increase in the number of people using walk in clinics for matters that would be appropriately dealt with seeing a family doctor(PAP tests, general health check-ups, etc.)  

In June 2014, the college of Physicians and Surgeons of BC revised the professional standards for walk-in clinics to reflect this transition. Clinics are now required to keep detailed medical records of the patient, contact the patient regarding labs results, and offer follow-up appointments if patients do not have access to their own GP, as well as have access to Pharmanet BC, the provincial database that tracks current prescriptions and histories. This ensures a proper paper trail of medical records so a doctor can better diagnose each patient.

There is something to be said for the bond developed between a GP and patient. They usually have a rich context of medical history, sometimes going back generations. He/She has time to review your chart before they meet with you, which allows them to diagnose you with confidence.  

You are generally able to get in and out of the office relatively quickly and stress free. Walk-in clinics, on the other hand, often have wait times of 15 minutes to 2 hours.  This can make an already uncomfortable situation even worse. Not to mention that without a proper medical history, how can a doctor be expected to properly treat complex concerns..?

In conclusion, as Canadians, we have access to free health care, and we are all responsible to take care of our own health. Wherever we seek treatment we can be sure Canadian doctors will always treat us to the best of their abilities.