Hopefully this past long weekend, you didn’t find yourself like many people, sitting in an emergency department, watching the clock slowly tick away your holiday.
It’s a situation many West Shore residents dread, without realizing there is an alternative.
Island Health statistics show an increasing number of patients in emergency rooms during statutory holiday weekends. The health authority states at least some of that increase is related to the fact many family physician offices are closed and some walk-in clinics aren’t open.
Krys Bateman, head medical office assistant at St. Anthony’s Treatment Centre on Goldstream Avenue, said one of the most common misconceptions surrounding clinics is that they are closed on weekends and holidays.
“There’s actually quite a few (walk-in clinics) open on long weekends,” she said.
The Colwood Medical Treatment Centre, located on Sooke Road at Colwood Corners, also had its doors open this past long weekend. It only closes on Canada Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, although hours are dependent on physician availability.
St. Anthony’s is open for walk-in patients every day except Dec. 25. Like the Colwood clinic, however, the clinic’s hours of operation can sometimes be limited due to doctor availability, Bateman said.
“It’ll be crazy dead or crazy busy, there’s no medium when it comes to long weekends,” she said. While the average wait time is usually around 45 minutes, it can be longer due to patients requiring complex care, she added. “We do our best.”
Typically Mondays and Fridays are busier for the clinic. Contributing to that, she says, are scenarios where people come home from a trip and realize they’re not feeling well, or are perhaps getting children ready for a trip and not wanting something like a sore throat to get overlooked.
There has been a rise in foot traffic to clinics due to the diminishing number of general practitioners. The trend has seen many patients go without a family doctor, since a large number of GPs have retired without replacements to take over their practices.
Many, including Bateman, say this phenomenon has been growing for more than two years, and has caused a shift from them seeing more typical cases like sore throats and colds to more complex issues.
Bateman doesn’t like to see patients with ailments such as sore throats or earaches head to an ER simply because they don’t know there’s an alternative option open.
“I feel for the emergency rooms that get overrun,” she said.
If you need medical assistance but aren’t sure whether to go to an emergency department or a clinic, you can call Healthlink B.C. at 811 and talk to a registered nurse.
What’s the wait?
A pilot project by Vancouver Coastal Health has launched a website that monitors Vancouver, Richmond, and North Shore emergency department wait times, with the hope of expanding to the rest of the B.C.’s health regions. For more information please go to edwaittimes.ca.