Need after-hours medical care? Go to Fergus.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Written by Scott Gilbert

Sickness does not come with good timing. One can become ill at any point throughout the day however, if you get sick after-hours, think twice before counting on decent medical care before morning.

I moved to Guelph in 2003 and immediately commented to my family on how many walk-in clinics existed in Guelph and how easy it was to see a doctor when needed. I moved to Toronto in 2006 and just recently came back to Guelph. I haven't needed to go to a walk-in clinic in years, so was unbenounced to the current after-hours health care crisis taking place in this otherwise fine city.

Last week, my partner desperately needed to see a doctor to get an antibiotic for her sinus infection. I drove her to the walk-in clinic on Harvard Road, only to find a closed sign on the door, in the middle of the day. Living at Quebec and Norfolk streets, I decided we'd wait until the clinic opened on Yarmouth Street that evening. When we got home, I walked over to check the opening time, only again to find a closed clinic. This time, closed for good. We had two more choices at this point. Go to the Surrey Street Clinic, which opened at 6 p.m. And hope we don't have to wait five hours, or go to the hospital emergency room and hope we're out before morning.

Obviously, we chose to try our luck with the clinic. I drove over in the afternoon to double check that the clinic still operated and make sure they open at 6 p.m. Their door indicated they were in operation and that indeed they would open at 6. Closing time? When capacity is reached.

Fearing an after-hours medically frustrated city, I thought we should arrive at the clinic no later than 5:30 p.m. I mean, who else would want to sit and wait in a hallway for 30 minutes? Wrong choice. Arriving at 5:20 p.m., we were about 12th in line. Others said they had gotten there around 4 p.m. that day. At least we were in line and would be seen.

At about 5:50 the receptionist opened the door to let everyone in, asking people to fill out the sign-up sheet before sitting down. By 5:55 the clinic had reached capacity and closed its doors for the night, before it was even scheduled to open. Anyone arriving to the clinic, thinking they were still a few minutes early, was met with a closed and locked door. There was nobody they could talk to and no other clinic to turn to.

Access to basic health care is a fundamental right that Guelph citizens are being denied, after-hours.

The day was not all bad though. My partner was able to see a doctor and receive her medication and we learned some valuable lessons from others in line at the clinic. If you can't arrive to the after-hours clinic early enough, save the time and hassle and go to a walk-in clinic in nearby Kitchener. Better yet, go to the emergency room in Fergus. The shorter-than-Guelph wait is worth the drive, especially with the cheap cost of gas.

Not long after this mini-ordeal, I stumbled across an article in the Guelph Tribune that discussed the doctor glut in Guelph. Rather surprised, I read on with interest to learn that there are in fact so many doctors in Guelph now that many of them are funding it difficult to fill the roster for their local practices. The key difference here is that if you want a family doctor your options are plentiful, but for a short unscheduled visit to a clinic you are pretty much out of luck.

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  1. Posted by: Jessica on Feb 10, 2009 @ 10:45pm

    So the moral of this story is that if you can't get into a walk-in clinic in Guelph, you should waste the time and medical facilities of an EMERGENCY ROOM in Fergus, a much smaller place, for something as non-urgent as a sinus infection?

    Great advice. You think your entitlement is more important than actual medical emergencies?

    I'm sure Fergus doesn't want to deal with your family's sinus infections, or any other non-life-threatening issue that can't get seen another day.

  2. Posted by: Jessica on Feb 10, 2009 @ 10:51pm

    "any other non-life-threatening issue that can't get seen another day"

    I meant to write

    "any other non-life-threatening issue that can wait to get seen another day."

    My apologies.

  3. Posted by: Umm on Feb 11, 2009 @ 12:48am

    I think you missed the whole point. The point of the story is there aren't enough walk-in clinics at Guelph. Furthermore, just because something isn't life-threatening doesn't mean it is not important or you shouldn't seek medical care. I don't think I would want to wait another day to get medical attention for a sinus infection. If you've ever been in an emergency room, they sort you depending on priorities, so don't worry about wasting the time and medical facilities of an emergency room of a hospital which by the way people pay for with taxes. Because if it is non-urgent they won't see you for a very long time. And I'm sure that you don't know for a fact if Fergus doesn't want to deal with families sinus infections or other "non-life-threatening issues" unless you are a doctor who works there? Thought so.

  4. Posted by: Elysia on Feb 11, 2009 @ 10:28am

    I agree that there is a serious problem with the walk in clinic situation in Guelph. Yarmouth closed its doors about a year ago, Surrey is only open at night and fills up way too fast, and the doctors at Campus Estates run the clinic at sporadic hours, opening and closing when they feel like it. They'll close early if they don't want to see any more patients, or if it is slow and not worth their time staying when they can't run the place like a medical assembly line. It seems to be all about the money, and not the health of patients. I have seen newborn babies turned away because the parents have not yet received the OHIP card, and seeing the baby will involve a piece of paperwork. God forbid a doctor would see a sick newborn pro bono.

  5. Posted by: Elysia on Feb 11, 2009 @ 10:29am

    I'm not trying to issue any personal attacks here, but the walk in situation in Guelph is sub-standard at best.
    Part of the problem is obviously the admin, and that there are not enough doctors that want to work in a walk-in clinic. However, another big problem is people clogging up the waiting rooms with things like the sniffles that only started that morning, for instance. These people run to the doctor at the first sign of a cold, just to be told, time and time again, that it's a virus; there is no prescription for it. Then they proceed to yell and scream at the doctor demanding antibiotics. I'm not saying that you should ignore medical concerns if you have a serious infection (fever, green mucus, etc) or illness, but when people are taking up the very limited doctors' time with frivolous concerns, and truly sick people are turned away and have to go to the ER, that is wrong.

  6. Posted by: George on Feb 11, 2009 @ 1:57pm

    The problem with a lack of health care in the country, not just Guelph, arises from a fundamental problem with the health care system and that’s that too much responsibility is left solely to doctors and not enough given to nurses.

    There is no reason a nurse, with proper insurance, can’t treat someone who has a cold, or a twisted ankle, or a stomach ache. It’s absurd that MD’s are the only one’s allowed to make a diagnosis and prescription in these minor cases.

    Allow nurses to take on these responsibilities, free doctor’s time up to worry about serious and specialized issues, and many issues I believe can be resolved.

  7. Posted by: alex on Feb 11, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    If it wasn't for medicine to be subjected to the constant threat of a lawsuit, there would be more responsibility to be shared between doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners. Another thing I wanted to say is to charge a fee for simple doctor vists to weed out those who are just sapping the emergency system.

    But what's that you say?! god forbid we're like the states where you have to pay money to see a doctor?! Here's a fuckin' news flash, places with "great" healthcare like Sweden or France require you to pony up approximately $40CAD to see a doctor. This puts WAY more money into the health care system while ensuring that there's an adequate reason to go to the doctor.

  8. Posted by: Hey bud on Feb 11, 2009 @ 11:49pm

    Here's a newsflash for YOU. The healthcare system in Canada is staying as is. So go to Sweden or France if you want your oh so great healthcare. I bet you've never seen the look on somebody's face who couldn't receive treatment for cancer because they couldn't "pony up" a few grand. There are always two sides to the coin.

  9. Posted by: alex on Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:35am

    wow, just wow, normally I don't bite but there has been a lot of retarded arguments on here which make me wonder if this site is visited by actual UofG students, and if so, wow did we ever let standards go. Were you actually trying with that argument or did you just shiton your keyboard and hoped it worked.

    First of all, what is your point that you're trying to get across about if I want good health care I would go to sweden or france? It is true, they do have better health care. In Sweden there is dental, psychological and optical insurance coverage, something that we epic fail at. What's your average dental check up, just the fucking check up without actually doing anything, that goes into the hundreds of dollars. Need actual dental work? there goes half a semesters worth of tuition. Getting a psychologist is just as pricey. When you're looking at $75/hr, you might as well kill yourself instead of dealing with issues/payment. All of these things are covered in Sweden. To put it in perspective, about 85% of ALL healthcare is covered in sweden as compared to our 62%.

  10. Posted by: alex on Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:36am

    France has a weird system involving private and public insurance making love and creating what is known as the french healthcare system. If I made a mistake, it's saying that the french healthcare system is better. They do have way more fees for a lot of procedures, but everybody seems to love the french health care so went with the flow.

    So where exactly did I say that people should pay for cancer treatment, and where did I say that they should pay in the "few grand" region? That's right, I didn't, you're just making shit up. I still stand by my point that to see the doctor you should pay up a small, but existent fee. This will cut down on the number of people who go to the emergency room just for the hell of it. As in many other countries that have this system, follow-ups are free and those too poor/young are also free.

  11. Posted by: alex on Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:36am

    To answer your statement, yes, if I was able to go to sweden or france for healthcare I would certainly take that offer.

  12. Posted by: I rofled my copter on Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:51am

    It seems to me that "Hey Bud" has no real support for his arguments, but just enjoys being a douche bag via the internet. In my humble opinion, you come off as more of a shit disturbing mongoloid who deserves to get his teeth kicked in as opposed to an informed personal making any valid statements. But like I said, that's just my opinion. =)

  13. Posted by: Elysia on Feb 12, 2009 @ 11:17am

    To correct one minor detail. alex said "Getting a psychologist is just as pricey. When you're looking at $75/hr, you might as well kill yourself instead of dealing with issues/payment."
    If you go to a physician with psychological issues, they will write a referral for a psychiatrist and/or psychologist, and with that referral, OHIP pays. The only downside is, unless you are really messed up, the wait for an appointment is generally a few months.
    I do agree with the dentist thing; dental care should definitely be subsidized. Speaking from experience, those without insurance are often unable to dish out hundreds or even thousands of dollars at a time for essential procedures. They end up suffering, getting even more medical problems, then costing the system more because of it. It could all be simply avoided.

  14. Posted by: George on Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Not that I’m an advocate for or against it, but perhaps Canada should consider a Two Tier health care system. For people who can’t afford private health care, they can use pubic health care that is subsidized, down side they might have to deal with wait times. For people who can afford private health care, they pay that premium for reduce wait times and better service and free up some space in the public system.

    We allow private and public schools to operate, why not private and public health care now?

  15. Posted by: John L on Feb 12, 2009 @ 7:39pm

    A sinus infection merits a 20 mile drive to an Emergency Room, especially after touring Guelph looking for after-hours clinics? Looks like this morphed into being less and less about illness and more and more about someone trying to prove something or other, again.

    Another day, another chip on the shoulder. Starting to get a little stale, Scott.

  16. Posted by: Hey bud on Feb 13, 2009 @ 4:19am

    Because public and private healthcare is on a different level than private and public schools, it is a linear solution to a holistic problem.

    And what if the author was trying to prove a point? Even if it was less and less about illness and more and more about someone trying to prove a point, I think he did a good job at that.

  17. Posted by: Libertarian_1 on Feb 14, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    sweet! thanks for the heads-up scott!

    next time i get sick i'm going to pack up the hibachi and my new portable, hand held, aerial tv, head to fergus and tailgate out the back of my 1970 ford country squire station wagon with the rest of my family. we'll get our check-ups all at once. we won't even insist on using different tongue depressors. we'll all use the same one. we all share the same toothbrush anyway.

    here's a picture of my sweet ride:


    and my family:


    and me (i'm in the middle):


    ...lol, i'm going to hell!

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