Clinic once again accepting walk-ins

By Phil Ambroziak

The Prairie North Regional Health Authority (PNRHA) believes it has found the cure for overcrowded emergency rooms.
As of March 1, the Primary Health Centre in downtown Meadow Lake is once again operating as a walk-in clinic for patients in need of immediate care, but who don’t qualify as emergency cases. It’s the first time the clinic has offered a walk-in service since early 2010.
“We’re still trying to work out a few minor details, but we will have a provider – whether it’s a doctor or a nurse practitioner – designated every day to see walk-ins in the morning and in the afternoon,” explained clinic manager Dione Fleury. “Also, there is a physician on call at the hospital every day. If there are no emergencies, this physician will also come over to the clinic and see walk-in patients. The goal is to have fewer people going to the emergency room and more people utilizing the clinic.”
Fleury went on to say walk-ins are restricted to more acute cases, adding the clinic will not fill any narcotics or controlled substances.
Prior to the recent format change, the clinic booked appointments with patients while also providing a limited number of same-day bookings. Fleury said patient safety, combined with a doctor shortage, led to PNRHA’s initial decision to cancel walk-ins three years ago.
“We were seeing 40-70 patients per day, which is quite high,” she noted. “There were lineups of people going out the door, sometimes in -40C weather. The health region wanted us to find a better way.”
With physician levels now on the rise, along with continued growth throughout Meadow Lake and the surrounding area, Fleury said PNRHA officials felt it was time to revisit the walk-in clinic concept.
“The number of doctors has improved – we now have 10 physicians and two nurse practitioners,” she said. “If we’re able to play catchup for the next little while, things should only get better.”
While public feedback was still early to gauge (the walk-in clinic only reopened Friday), Fleury said it is a service many people have been asking about for some time.
“We just have to ask our patients to be patient,” she said. “There will always be people who remain upset because they have to sit and wait, but you can’t please everyone all the time. But, for a city of this size and the number of people we serve, we need a walk-in clinic. Meadow Lake is too big of a community not to have one.”

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