Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic re­open­ing Sept. 17

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ADAM MACIN­NIS

The Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic in New Glas­gow is re­open­ing.

Doc­tor Chris El­liott con­firmed the de­ci­sion to The News ear­lier this week and has sub­mit­ted a let­ter re­gard­ing their de­ci­sion to re­open with re­duced hours.

Be­gin­ning Sept. 17, the clinic will be open Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day evenings with reg­is­tra­tion for pa­tients start­ing at 4:30 p.m. and run­ning un­til 8:30 p.m., al­though reg­is­tra­tion may end early de­pend­ing on the num­ber of pa­tients wait­ing to be seen.

While the is­sues that ex­isted when the doc­tors who own the clinic first made the de­ci­sion to tem­po­rar­ily close be­gin­ning Aug. 5 re­main, El­liott said they felt they had to do what they could to re­open.

One of their pri­mary con­cerns that led to the tem­po­rary clo­sure was dif­fi­culty in re­cruit­ing new doc­tors. In Au­gust, one of the doc­tors who reg­u­larly works at the clinic left. An­other fac­tor was the ex­clu­sion of walk-in clin­ics from an en­hanced fee be­ing paid to pri­mary care physi­cians. They said it was dif­fi­cult to re­cruit doc­tors be­cause they were be­ing paid less to see pa­tients at the walk in then they were at their of­fice.

With a high num­ber of pa­tients with­out a fam­ily doc­tor in Pic­tou County, El­liott said they were in fact pro­vid­ing pri­mary care as well as fol­low-up for many peo­ple.

Dur­ing the pe­riod they were closed, El­liott said they met with Health Min­is­ter Randy Delorey as well as staff from the Nova Sco­tia De­part­ment of Health and Well­ness and the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity and Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia to dis­cuss their con­cerns.

“Un­for­tu­nately, to date, we have not come to a res­o­lu­tion with re­gards to the con­cerns we shared with you in our let­ter of July 17, 2018, in­clud­ing the re­cruit­ment of an ad­di­tional physi­cian,” the doc­tors wrote in their most re­cent let­ter. “We are, of course, dis­ap­pointed, with this out­come to date and will con­tinue to ad­vo­cate to govern­ment and other stake­hold­ers for fair and eq­ui­table com­pen­sa­tion.”

Delorey, in re­sponse to ques­tions from The News, emailed a state­ment say­ing: “The Aberdeen walk-in clinic is an im­por­tant ser­vice and we want to see it main­tained.”

He said his de­part­ment will con­tinue to work with the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity and the clinic on pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

Pres­i­dent of Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia Tim Hol­land said it’s a com­plex is­sue be­cause walk-ins op­er­ate very dif­fer­ently in some parts of the prov­ince than in oth­ers.

The en­hanced fees are be­ing paid to fam­ily physi­cians as a re­sult of a re­cent $39.6 mil­lion in­vest­ment in pri­mary care by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, he ex­plained. Walk-ins weren’t in­cluded be­cause they don’t al­ways pro­vide “com­pre­hen­sive and con­tin­u­ous care” that the money was ear­marked for.

There are ex­cep­tions to the level of care pro­vided by walk-ins, how­ever, in­clud­ing at the Aberdeen Walk-In which saw 10,000 pa­tients in 2017 and pro­vided re­fer­rals and fol­low-ups. Ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity on Sept. 1, there are, 2,318 peo­ple in Pic­tou County on the wait list for a fam­ily doc­tor.

“Not all walk-ins are cre­ated equal,” Hol­land said.

He said that Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia rec­og­nizes that in some in­stances, physi­cians work­ing in walk-in clin­ics are in fact pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive and con­tin­u­ous care to pa­tients with­out a fam­ily doc­tor and Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia be­lieves they should be el­i­gi­ble for the en­hanced rates in th­ese in­stances.

Hol­land said he’s cau­tiously op­ti­mistic Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia, the Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity and De­part­ment of Health and Well­ness will be able to find a way to rec­og­nize when a walk-in is pro­vid­ing a com­pre­hen­sive visit and com­pen­sate them ac­cord­ingly.

“It’s a com­plex ques­tion and it’s go­ing to re­quire a so­phis­ti­cated an­swer,” he said.

Long term, how­ever, he said the prob­lem won’t be solved un­til the short­age of fam­ily physi­cians is ad­dressed.

He be­lieves proper com­pen­sa­tion is one el­e­ment and said he would like to see Nova Sco­tia “at the top of the pack for the At­lantic prov­inces” when it comes to pay for doc­tors.

But he said it’s not all about money. He be­lieves cut­ting red tape for doc­tors, pro­vid­ing them with modern tech­nol­ogy to work with and pro­vid­ing bet­ter men­tor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are all tools that could be used to make Nova Sco­tia a more at­trac­tive place for doc­tors to prac­tice.

FILE PHOTO

Dozens at­tended a rally in sup­port of the Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic in Au­gust.

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