Walk-in clinic wait times are down slightly, but it's cold comfort to those queueing outside

People waiting outside the Clayton Park Medical Clinic on Wednesday expected it would take two hours to get inside.  (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)
People waiting outside the Clayton Park Medical Clinic on Wednesday expected it would take two hours to get inside. (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotians aren't waiting quite as long at walk-in clinics, according to new data, but that's little comfort for those without a family doctor who are lining up outside this winter to receive care.

Residents in the province waited 72 minutes on average in 2023, which is 11 minutes less than 2022. That's according to Thomas Jankowski, the CEO of Medimap, the company that compiled the numbers.

"It's still the only province where we see the trend inverse, which I think is quite notable," said Jankowski.

A Canadian company that helps patients access care at walk-in clinics, Medimap collected wait-time data from 1,200 such facilities in six provinces.

In 2023, the company found Canadians waited 68 minutes to see a doctor — almost double the time it took the year before.

Blessen Samuel was optimistic on Wednesday, despite standing behind about 20 people outside the Clayton Park Medical Clinic.

"I think compared to last time, it is decreasing," Samuel said "I see less people waiting here."

'It's pretty bad'

But some in line felt differently.

"It's pretty bad," said Neil Green, who expected to wait over two hours outdoors before he would be able to enter the clinic.

"I went to a couple different ones. I've tried a couple other days. Just, they're constantly either fully booked, or just there isn't any availability because a doctor isn't available," said Green.

He said the wait on the sidewalk feels even longer on a brisk winter day.

Jankowski said Medimap doesn't have a way to track how long patients spend outside clinics, so their information underestimates how long people are truly waiting.

"We are trying to think of a way of asking patients to self-report wait times even before they get in, but that data is hard to get ahold of."

In the meantime, Jankowski said Nova Scotians can use the Medimap website to find walk-in clinics and wait time data. He said one of the company's goals is to keep less serious cases out of hospital emergency departments.

"It's all about education and actually making that connection happen," he said.

In a statement, Nova Scotia Health said it is providing support for collaborative family medicine practices and urgent treatment centres in an effort to alleviate pressures in the health system. They are also adding mobile clinics, expanding services offered in pharmacies and adding appointments for virtual care, the statement said.

The health authority said the YourHealthNS app can also help people find the right services for their needs and where they are offered.