June 4, 2019 4:02 pm
Updated: June 4, 2019 5:03 pm

N.S. walk-in clinics struggle with doctor recruitment

WATCH: A walk in clinic in Lower Sackville remains closed despite the former owners hoping it would reopen under new ownership in May. The clinic first closed due to doctor recruitment challenges, and as Alicia Draus reports, the issue is not unique to that clinic.

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The Community Care Clinic in Lower Sackville closed its doors for the last time at the end of April.

At the time, Dr. Cindy Marshall said the workload was too much for the doctors at the clinic and they were unable to recruit additional physicians.

“Lots of physicians don’t want to do after-hours call, especially in a setting where the remuneration for after-hours work is less than what it would be for your office, so it’s a disincentive,” said Marshall.

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READ MORE: Lack of physicians forcing Lower Sackville walk-in clinic to close

Marshall was hoping they could find someone else to take over the clinic, so a sign was posted to the door. It read “The Clinic will likely REOPEN in May under new ownership.”

As of June 4th, the clinic remains closed, with no signs of a new ownership taking over. Chris Parsons with the Nova Scotia Health Coaltion said it highlights the state of the health care system.

“What we’re told consistently about the closures of ERs and Doctor’s offices is that it’s really difficult to recruit people in rural parts of the province,” said Parsons.

“Sackville is within the Halifax Regional Municipality, it’s close to downtown, people can commute from the city so it really shouldn’t be a place that’s difficult to staff,” he added.

And the problem exists in other clinics across HRM.

WATCH: Doctor shortage continues to be an issue for Nova Scotia

A statement from Mark Fletcher, Medical Director for the Family Focus Clinics said “over the last 18-24 months we have regularly had walk in clinic shifts where we did not have a physician to staff the shift, so that clinic in question had to close.”

Closures occur less often at the Clayton Park Medical Clinic, but Dr. Umar Haider said they do happen.

“Probably about four to five times over the past few months,” he said.

In addition to that, the clinic is often forced to turn patients away due to the volume of people coming in and the limited number of slots available each day.

Haider said it happens “almost every day,” where the clinic informs people that the clinic is at capacity by putting up a sign on the door.

“The strain comes because the doctors are retiring and doctors are moving so there are a lot more patients who don’t have family doctors so they all come to the walk-in clinics,” Haider said.

READ MORE: Doctors Nova Scotia demand ‘immediate action’ on physician shortages

As of May 1st, 52,585 Nova Scotians have been registered on the Need a Family Practice registry, up 1.5 percent from April 1st. But Parsons points out that it’s not only those without a family physician who use walk-in clinics.

“Even people who have a family doctor, sometimes they’re given three, four, five weeks of a wait period so their choice is either go to an ER or go to a walk-in clinic,” Parsons said.

He said he would like to see more resources made available to people in search of primary care.

“One of the things we need to see is an increased use of things like nurse practitioners, who have expertise and can help alleviate the system so we’re not reliant entirely on one type of medical professional.”

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