Walk-in clinic closing, temporarily

Community Featured

NEW GLASGOW — One of the owners of the Aberdeen Walk-In-Clinic is uncertain about its future.

Dr. Chris Elliott who, with Dr. Tom Park, owns the clinic, confirmed the facility will close for at least six weeks from August 5 to September 17 due to a lack of doctors.

The clinic has operated since 2005, while Elliott and Park have owned it since 2009.

The clinic already underwent reduced hours of operation when a doctor retired and a replacement could not be found. But they decided to close the clinic upon learning another doctor would be leaving in August.

The clinic has most recently been open three evenings a week and Saturday mornings.

Elliott said he’s uncertain about the clinic’s long-term future without hiring a doctor soon.

“Hopefully, it won’t lead to closure,” he said. “If we don’t solve the problem, it will lead to closure. I want to offer my apologies to the citizens of Pictou County, but we feel we don’t have any other option.”

Elliott cited two factors that have impacted the clinic: a rise in more comprehensive care for patients and a lack of funding for doctors working at the clinic.

“When Dr. Park and I bought the clinic in 2009, it was in-and-out quick things. Nowadays, we’re doing more comprehensive things,” he said. “At least 30 per cent of the patients we see do not have a family doctor.”

A decision by the province not to include pay raises for doctors at the Aberdeen Walk-In Clinic has exacerbated the problem, Elliott said. He said the Department of Health and Wellness and MSI decided recently not to apply the enhanced fee model to doctors at walk-in clinics, which also forced the closure.

“Enhanced fees for primary care are not applicable for walk-in-clinics,” he said. “If doctors are paid less in after-hour settings than in their offices, it’s pretty hard to recruit.”

Elliott noted the work done at the Aberdeen clinic has been viewed favourably, and the staff functions well in partnership with the emergency department at the nearby Aberdeen Hospital.

“It’s overwhelmingly positive for the things we do,” he said. “We don’t profess to be the emerge, although we work well with them.”