The convenience of walk-in clinics has led to an upsurge in the past two decades of openings of walk-ins. No longer do Canadians have to wait for a doctor’s appointment for minor problems, such as a sprained ankle, a cut, or even the flu. The clinics also offer Canadians an alternative to waiting long hours in emergency for minor medical issues for new or existing illnesses. Doctors at these clinics can check blood pressure and take temperatures, and some locations have lab facilities. Individuals with blood sugar and glucose problems oftentimes choose a walk-in as visits for patients with chronic problems are more often needed than the usual physician check-up.
The functions of walk-in clinics
The walk-in clinic makes it possible to not only see a doctor or a nurse practitioner for more minor injuries and illnesses quickly, but it also takes the burden off emergency rooms and staff in major hospitals. While non-emergency services are provided, if an issue is life-threatening or seems very concerning a walk-in should not be used but a hospital emergency room.
Anyone considering a walk-in needs to assess the seriousness of the illness or injury. If in doubt, use the emergency room of a hospital.
Most heart attacks can simply start as an upset stomach or shoulder pain. Also, some abdominal distress can be serious, such as cancer or appendicitis. No walk-in location should ever be considered as having the same type of full hospital treatments.
Differences in walk-in clinics, based on location
There are territorial and provincial differences in walk-in clinic services in Canada. The size of the clinic also matters as some will have laboratory services, but others do not.
Easily search for local clinics online, with information readily available about when to use them, and of course, what services to expect there. Making a call to a clinic before a visit is a good idea as many of them have appointments available nowadays. You can also ascertain waiting times (there are busy periods) and the types of treatments available.
Some clinics have doctors, while others provide nurse practitioners only. That is common in the US as well as Canada.
Also, some clinics may make referrals to a doctor if medication is needed, while others can prescribe medication. Obviously, there are plenty of variables in each clinic.
Insurance issues are generally not a problem at these facilities
Also called Urgent Care Facilities, walk-in clinics are usually covered by the federal health care system and the provincial healthcare frameworks, the same as hospitals. The website of the Government of Canada has information on what is called “pay as you go” clinics for those that do not have insurance. This generally only applies to individuals that get ill while visiting Canada or are there for temporary work and are not citizens.
Some clinics provide COVID-19 testing but can be drive-throughs because of the transmissibility of the disease. Or patients must wait outside until their names are called to prevent exposing others. This procedure is also common in the US and Britain.
With coronavirus guidelines still in place in all hospitals and clinics, walk-ins follow these protocols for each patient now, so wait time might be longer. Although certain categories of individuals qualify for a free COVID-19 test in Canada, including those who are temporary workers, unless symptoms are presented, many clinics and labs will offer a “take-home test.” The test is for individuals who want to know if they have been infected but are not showing symptoms.
Only certain labs and clinics provide in-house COVID-19 testing and any clinic or lab should be called first to ensure that the costs are covered, and the tests are necessary. Overall uninsured individuals in Canada will pay less than if going to a large hospital for a minor illness or another small malady. Even publicly and privately insured individuals may have a small copay and walk-ins will cost less usually.
As COVID-19 restrictions change, clinic hours and protocols can change
Although walk-in clinics offer extended hours generally beyond those of a doctor’s office, office hours can change depending upon the number of employees now, or if any employees were exposed to the virus. With the new Omicron variant now at large in the world, shifting workplace situations are common and this also applies to clinics and other healthcare facilities.
Most clinics do not have the number of staff that hospitals generally do. There are enough walk-ins within Canada now that if one is not open or hours are cut others exist as over the last two decades the explosion of walk-in clinics within Canada has been enormous.
The Canadian government, like all other world governments, change the rules regarding COVID-19 and the rules for all medical facilities according to what is best to protect the health and wellbeing of its people. Masks also are still required, even if vaccinated and social distancing.
Dental emergencies also happen: Walk-in dental clinics exist
Routine dental care is great to follow. If an urgent dental problem happens, walk-in clinics exist to help. Some can save residents on costs and provide certain private services, such as assistance with Dental Grants as well as payment plans.
Be sure to visit your provincial website for guidance on which clinics exist for dentistry and what types of options that the clinics offer. The Canada Health Act (CHA) does not provide for dental unless surgery is required. Therefore, if not privately insured for dental or under an employer, a walk-in dental clinic can save much money and give guidance on grants and payments.
A few last words on walk-in clinics
Overall, walk-ins are a great addition to health services for Canadians as waiting lists for doctors can be extensive in general and some Canadians do not have a family physician. Both medical and dental emergencies occur and now can be addressed quickly and with or without insurance.