Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I noticed awhile back that the new medical clinic by my workplace put up notices all over their doors and windows that say 'You must be a patient of this clinic to attend walk-in services'. I am going to check to see if the signs are still there and try to remember my camera to get a photo - and then I am going to contact Alberta Health Services to see why and how this is actually legal. I have not seen signs posted like that at any other clinic in town.

These are not specialists. They are all general practioners/family doctors. In other words, we all pay their salaries. We help pay for all of the patients that they see. How is it that these public medical staff people are not allowing me to go in there at walk-in service hours? One of the doctors in this clinic sits on the advisory board for AHS. None of them are taking new patients, and haven't been since shortly after the clinic opened.

Is it legal for general practioners to turn away people that are not on any of their doctor's patient lists? My son has an ear infection, his doctor is out of town, this clinic is literally a one minute walk from my work place, but I had to take him to a clinic that is further away instead. That's when I suddenly wondered at the legality and even the morality of this practise. The doctors might band together to open their own clinic, but they are paid by ME and my partner, my family, my friends - yet none of us are allowed to go there. Why is that exactly?

My own family doctor has walk in services 3 nights a week. He sees anyone who walks through the door. The clinic I visited today has been open for longer than I can remember and I have never seen a sign on their door disallowing 'non patients', even though it too is operated by a group of 5 physicians. So what's up with the Health Matters clinic?? I will have to look into that.


  1. It could well be that they're already overbooked with their regulars. I know our family doctors' clinic doesn't have walk-ins, probably because they're already fully booked. I could always get my mother in quickly when needed, but was aware I was squeezing Mum in between other appointments and inconveniencing other patients.

    Some clinics are set up as walk-ins; they have only a few regulars (and won't take any more on the patient list) and spend the rest of the time with the casual patient. I know of three fairly neary.

  2. Oh I am sure they are overbooked with their regular patients, as are all doctors in town. My concern is that this is a public system, we have no other choices in this country really, and yet the very system we all pay to support ends up putting up blockers everywhere. This clinic has posted times and dates for walk in services, so it's not like they are ending that service - but will now only take their own patients.

    I'm sorry but in a system where we all have to pay for the AHS whether we use it or not, why are we then pushed away? Many thousands do not have a family doctor at all but that can be blamed on the hiring process. Those that do not have a doc and have been on waiting lists forever with no luck yet only have the hospital ER and the walkin clinics to fall back on - if you go to ER for a throat infection, people get annoyed or you end up there for four hours+ til you can be seen because of course it is a triage situation. If you show up at walkin, you might get turned away because you aren't on their patient list. Where are you supposed to go?

    I know a family with 5 children who have lived here for 5 years and they still do not have a family doctor. It took several trips to various walkins before someone would finally listen to their concerns about their young daughter's back - turns out it was BROKEN inutero and she had literally been walking around for 8 years with a broken and re-fused (in wrong position) back. It took months to see a specialist and another year for an operation. That kind of thing is just WRONG.

    Imagine if every walkin was blocked to non-patients eventually - where are people supposed to go? some do not want a family doc and that is their own problem to deal with when they suddenly need one. But some have been on lists for years to no avail. My mother took over a year to get a doc when her's quit and she needs medical attention on a regular basis. She got in after her friend begged her own doctor to take my mom on. That kind of thing is happening more and more.

    We have a lot of people from Saskatchewan on Alberta family doc lists because they have trouble in their province too, and on the west side there are BC patients coming to Alberta docs. Meanwhile, we all pay for it and end up barred from a walkin service that we help pay for.

    I don't understand how that can be considered ethical under the medical codes.


  3. We have a medical clinic here in Niagara Falls where the posted signs indicate "only one medical problem per visit"
    Turns out that this policy is across Ontario and spreading to the rest of Canada as it is seen to reduce wait times.

    In my case, I went to the clinic about knee pains and during a brief check-up he discovered another problem so then my dilemma became 'which problem do I speak with him about during my next visit'?
    The receptionist screens all patients and tells them to speak of only one problem if two are presented. The last time I went I actually had three problems, although one was minor in nature, but being allowed to speak of only one I decided to change clinics.

  4. I totally understand Neil because it is the same here, or at least it is in some places. For having a 'public system' we sure seem to be adding in 'private'-like rules all over the place. I understand that a lot of people show up at walkin and have umpteen zillion ailments and everyone else is waiting and waiting... however -there are computers that can keep track of that, see if they have a family doctor, and suggest they go there instead or work on specific people who continually use the system in that manner. But instead, they decide that would be 'unfair' to 'single out' a few people and just make the rule go across the board.

    It reminds me of one day when I took my young daughter to walkin, but we were both sick and I suspected it was a throat infection rather than a virus because strep throat was going around my workplace. I was told the doctor could not see both of us at once at the walkin. I stared at the nurse like she was crazy because for one thing, we would have 2 separate files and whether my daughter and I went in separately or together, we were one right after the other in the lineup. So what the heck difference did it make?? I tried to explain this to the nurse and she acted like I was the stupid one. Finally I said 'okay, then put me in first in line, and then you can call my daughter when the doctor is finished with me'. She will already be in the room so it will be easy. I heard some people in the line behind me snickering and saw one old man shaking his head in bemusement. Finally the nurse saw my reasoning. Two patients, two 5 minute slots in a row, all done. Geez I'm so sorry that once a year or so, I get sick from working with 20 kids and have to see a doc when mine is out of town. Sue me!

    Anyway I always think of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine has a weird rash but she kept ticking of the doctors and tried to steal her file to see what they were writing about her, and by the end of the show even rural docs way out of town had heard about her and would not see her as a patient. That sort of thing could happen up here and there is no need for it!

    My mom was even barred from one doc's walkin list without notice. She went to another walkin one day for a sore on her leg and the desk nurse told her there was a notation saying she could no long see Dr C. My mom was shocked. She still has no idea why. I reported it to the medical bureau over a year ago. She never fought with him or was rude, she just isn't that type of person. So now if she goes to her own clinic for walkin, but that particular doc is on, she has to leave and go to another.

    What kind of a rosey national wonderful public health system is that? And it's NOT just Alberta. I ran into similar problems when I lived in BC and then a bunch of rural clinics were closed so people piled into the Crowsnest Pass to see Blairmore doctors instead. Fun times.

  5. Our family doctors have the 'only one issue' policy as well. Drives me nuts. It's soooo inefficient. Usually I can get around it, though, as problems tend to be linked. I was told it was provincial policy because the health service would pay for only one small consult per visit.



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