It was a couple of days after a camping trip in the summer of 2014 when I noticed a suspicious bull’s eye shaped rash on my arm. Rashes like this are sometimes associated with Lyme disease transmitted by deer ticks, and given the lengthy list of potential complications of lyme disease ranging from hair loss to paralysis, I thought it might be smart to get it checked out.
It seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out one of the new Manitoba QuickCare clinics. I work during the day so I need something open in the evening, and I sure as heck am not going to go to an emergency room for a little rash on my arm.
QuickCare clinics are advertised as an alternative to emergency rooms “or having to wait for regular clinic hours” because they are “open evenings, weekends and holidays”, and they treat minor ailments like rashes so it was perfect.
I had supper and headed down to the nearest location at 7:45 to get my rash inspected. It was closed.
How could that be? They said they were open evenings! Well, early evening maybe: they close at 7:30 on weekdays — only half an hour later than the private clinic down the street from my house.
In fact, the St.Vital QuickCare clinic is open 13 hours a week less than the Lakewood Medical Centre walk-in clinic and 17 hours a week less than Dakota Medical Centre, two of the private clinics I would be most likely visit.
The Lakewood Medical Centre is open on non-statutory holidays and other private clinics advertise as being open 365 days a year. In the comparison above, QuickCare clinics provide a little extra coverage early Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, but that’s about it. Also the nurse practitioners that staff the QuickCare clinics are more limited in what they can treat than the doctors who staff private clinics.
This had me wondering ever since how much value there really is in these new clinics. This blog post has been knocking around in my brain for over a year, then out of nowhere Tom Brodbeck wrote a column (QuickCare clinics a waste of money) saying many of the same things I’ve been thinking, and calling them “a massive waste of tax dollars”. I’ll let you read his column if you wish, but I want to point out one suggestion that he makes:
What the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority should be doing to provide additional capacity for less serious ailments is expand the minor clinics that already exist in hospitals. Every emergency room in the city has some form of minor treatment clinic, usually staffed by a nurse practitioner and sometimes a physician. They allow the triage desk to divert less serious cases away from ERs.
I like the idea of using nurse practitioners to handle minor medical problems, as they should (in theory) cost the province less, but the costs of equipping and operating individual bricks-and-mortar clinics around the province must be substantial. If the province insists on having these separate clinics they should be open later in the evening so that there is less duplication with private clinics.
At a minimum they should show the hours of operation in their advertisements so that people are not mislead into believing they are open late. This past summer I got injured at a ball game after work. It was just a minor thing that required a few stitches, so somebody suggested going to a QuickCare clinic believing it was open in the evening as advertised. Luckily I knew better, and instead of driving into the city only to be greeted with a locked door, I headed to the nearest small town hospital, got patched up, and was back home in three hours.
More QuickCare clinics are scheduled to open, including one in Southdale a few hundred yards from Lakewood Medical Centre. More duplication. More cost to tax payers.
More opportunity for the Provincial government to tout it’s progress on front-line services.
***** UPDATE *****
See a rebuttal by Emma on her blog here: Winnipeg O’ My Heart