Dr. Murdo Ferguson and his wife, Dr. Linda Ferguson, are adding telephone appointments to the Truro Walk-In Clinic as of Monday.
“Some people often comment that it is difficult for children and the elderly, especially when they’re really sick, and they don’t feel they should have to line up or chance walking in for an appointment,” said Murdo Ferguson, who has been operating the clinic with his wife since 2002. “We are definitely responding to feedback from the community.”
Also operating the Colchester Research Group, which is also located in the Fundy Trail Mall, calls to the clinic during regular business hours will be routed there so appointments can be made.
“From our point of view, it’s a more efficient use of time. With walk-in appointments, we would have about 15 or 20 patients coming through the door within the first half-hour to an hour, and then there would be a gap in the flow of patients.”
With the new system, Ferguson said about half the appointments will be used through the call-in system, with the remaining half left available for those who still do walk in. He said many of the phoned in appointments will be booked toward the later part of the shift, but that’s flexible.
“The way the receptionist books appointments now, we know how long the doctor usually takes so if she knows it’s going to be an hour-and-a-half, then she can anticipate when the patient can come back.”
Since opening the walk-in clinic, 160,000 patients have walked through the doors.
“That is a lot,” said Ferguson, adding the local emergency department sees about 37,000 people a year. “We see about 13,000 to 14,000 a year. For a clinic to be seeing a third of the amount the emergency room is seeing, that’s a pretty significant amount.”
He said only about 20 to 25 per cent of the patients at the walk-in clinic are without family doctors. Those with a family doctor know it could be a long wait if they were to go to the emergency room, Ferguson says, so many opt to head to the walk-in clinic.
“We also see a lot of people from outside the community,” he said. “Migrant workers – for example the women from Jamaica that come to pick berries – and students from the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus and community college. We see a broad spectrum of people in the community.”
The change won’t affect the hours the clinic is open, but allow people to make same-day appointments. If the capacity for that day has been reached, there may be an opportunity to make an appointment for the following day.
“We had always done things with the walk-in way. We felt it was fair in a sense, but it can definitely be much better,” said Ferguson. “Patients are usually very happy to be seen in a timely fashion, which makes it an enjoyable place to work. We’re grateful there are local doctors that give up their time to work in the clinic, and I think the community appreciates that, and the doctors enjoy it.”
To book same-day appointments, call 902-893-3635. Walk-in patients are still welcome.
The clinic is open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and most, but not all, holidays.