Walk-in clinics on P.E.I. in high demand due to doctor shortage

·3 min read
With nearly 24,000 people on P.E.I. without a family physician, many are seeking treatment at walk-in clinics. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
With nearly 24,000 people on P.E.I. without a family physician, many are seeking treatment at walk-in clinics. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

The hottest ticket on P.E.I. these days isn't for a concert or a sports event, but rather to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic, especially for the increasing number of people without a family physician.

Summerside resident Rose Gallant and her husband woke up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the Sherwood Family Medical Centre walk-in clinic in Charlottetown at 6:30 a.m. — that's 90 minutes before the clinic opened. The couple was the first in line.

"You never know when the doctor's in Summerside, in the clinic. Whenever he feels like going. Then he takes his own patients over you, so we come here," she said.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

At least three doctors in Charlottetown recently announced they would close their practices, leaving more than 5,000 patients on the Island without a family physician. This week, the province's patient registry was updated to nearly 24,000 names.

And as the doctor shortage on P.E.I. continues to grow, so do the lines at walk-in clinics.

New patients, no doctors

Hayden Smith said he empathizes with the Islanders who have been without a family doctor for many years.

He was in the line with Gallant and only showed up because he found himself among the thousands who have just lost a doctor.

"This is a new experience for us, it's a new reality," he said.

But given the health-care issues on the Island, he said it's to be expected that wait times at walk-in clinics would be this long.

"We come from Summerside to see a doctor. That's crazy." - Rose Gallant

"It's not the fault of the doctor or the staff, it's just the situation — the way that it is on P.E.I. It's a crisis," he said.

Other options

Many walk-in clinics on P.E.I., like the Sherwood one in Charlottetown, are managed privately and located in or near drug stores.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

In a statement to CBC News, Health P.E.I. said it is not responsible for the majority of walk-in clinics that are privately-run.

However, with the amount of people on the patient registry, officials are still encouraging patients to go to walk-in clinics, but warn they should expect an increased uptake for services at this time.

The Department of Health said the long-term goal is a shift toward a team-based approach, where doctors share patient loads with other health-care professionals.

The P.E.I. Pharmacists Association said many people seeking treatment at walk-in clinics are there for issues that don't necessarily require a doctor's visit, and they should talk to a pharmacist instead.

The association said pharmacists can help with a number of ailments, including:

  • Hay fever and allergies.

  • Premenstrual pain.

  • Emergency contraception.

  • Minor sleep disorders.

  • Nicotene dependence.

  • Yeast and urinary tract infections.

Association executive director Erin MacKenzie also said public funding of pharmacy services could help.

"Pharmacists are ready and able to offer even more services under a publicly funded model ... some of the non-urgent patients could be managed by their pharmacists, reserving more complex and urgent cases for our expert physicians," she said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting