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Hundreds line up outside Kingston clinic in desperate bid for family doctor

A long line forms outside CDK Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Monday. It was the first day of 'rostering' at the clinic, where four doctors will take as many as 4,000 new patients. (Jamie Corbett - image credit)
A long line forms outside CDK Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Monday. It was the first day of 'rostering' at the clinic, where four doctors will take as many as 4,000 new patients. (Jamie Corbett - image credit)

Hundreds of people desperate to find a family physician lined up overnight outside a Kingston, Ont., medical clinic this week, in what many are calling a clear sign of the serious doctor shortage in the region.

On Feb. 22, the CDK Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic announced four physicians would start taking on as many as 4,000 new patients at the clinic. Some 30,000 residents are currently without a family doctor in Kingston.

During "rostering" days held last week, prospective patients were asked to line up outside the clinic to be seen on a first-come, first-served basis. On Wednesday, the line was cut off after the first 100 people.

It's a frustrating situation.
- Jamie Corbett

Kate Alldred's husband arrived at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and was 95th in line, but didn't get his turn until 3 p.m.

"He decided he was OK with waiting for 10 hours in the rain because it was going to save him all of the future waiting times that we would have as a family at walk-in clinics, in urgent care, wherever we need to go to get care for ourselves and our family," Alldred said.

The Alldreds moved to Kingston in 2020 and have been on the province's Health Care Connect waitlist for a family physician ever since. Their youngest daughter, now 4, hasn't seen a doctor since she was six months old.

"We're not supposed to be seeking urgent care or emergency care for these day-to-day things, but we need to be managed by primary-care physicians," Alldred said.

Jamie Corbett was nearly 200 spots away from reaching the clinic entrance Monday afternoon.
Jamie Corbett was nearly 200 spots away from reaching the clinic entrance Monday afternoon.

Jamie Corbett was still nearly 200 spots away from reaching the clinic entrance on Monday afternoon. (Jamie Corbett)

Some gave up waiting

Jamie Corbett has been on the same provincial waitlist since his previous family doctor retired in 2020.

He waited in line outside the clinic on Monday, but returned home after a couple hours as nearly 200 people stood ahead of him.

"[A clinic staff member] said they will be announcing more rostering days, but I don't know if I'm prepared to sit there overnight," Corbett said. "Who knows what it's going to be like next time? It's a frustrating situation."

There's only one other walk-in clinic in Kingston, located in the city's downtown core.

"You can sometimes show up there at 10 in the morning and not see anybody by three in the afternoon, four o'clock, so that leaves you with urgent care at Hotel Dieu or emerge at KGH," Corbett said, referring to Kingston's hospitals.

On Thursday, Corbett informed CBC that after calling Health Care Connect he was finally placed with a family doctor.

Dr. Ziny Yen says that her staff stayed four hours late to help serve those who were desperate to get on the list.
Dr. Ziny Yen says that her staff stayed four hours late to help serve those who were desperate to get on the list.

Dr. Ziny Yen says that her staff stayed four hours late Monday to help serve those who were desperate to get on the list. (Ziny Yen)

'We need to do better'

Dr. Ziny Yen is lead physician at CDK Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic, where she's worked for more than a decade.

On the first day of rostering, her staff informed people deep in the line to go home so they didn't waste their time.

"People were very desperate to get a doctor so they did insist to stay," said Yen. "I think lots of people waited six hours that day, but they waited five years for a doctor, so it was well worth it."

Sensing the desperation of the people in line, clinic staff decided to stay an extra four hours on Monday, Yen said.

"It's devastating for me," said Alldred, who's also a nurse in the city.

"I think the clinic is doing the absolute best that they can under the circumstances, which is effectively a crisis in access to care in Ontario, and I think we need to do better."