When it comes to hospitals and health care in Ontario one of the most widely compared statistics are those of emergency room wait times. While wait times in Ontario for “Minor or uncomplicated conditions” have dropped from 4.8 hours to 4 hours, these patients account for nearly a third of all ER patients in the province.
I have only ever needed some form of professional medical care 4 times in my life. Each time I spent upwards of 5 hours waiting in the ER to see a doctor. Of these visits I only received treatment for two of them, in the form of skin glue and stitches. The problem here lies in the fact that none of those issues were severe enough that I really needed to visit the ER. Unfortunately, there is no alternative to hospitals in Ottawa if you are looking to get something like stitches, meaning people are forced to not only waste their own time in the ER, but more importantly, the hospitals time.
The more people who unnecessarily waste hours of their time going to the ER means longer wait times for everyone else using the services, especially those who need urgent care. The solution is one which, if implemented properly, should not only reduce the strain on ER’s across the province, but also make it faster for people to get the service they need.
The solution I am proposing is to have walk-in clinics which can cater to the needs of non-emergency patients who need a form of medical treatment that is not severe enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. There are places in Ontario where you can walk into a clinic and receive X-rays, stitches, and casts, but these are few and far between. In Ottawa there are a series of clinics which, while seeming to provide a wide range of services, are unfortunately only capable of procedures you wouldn’t have considered going to the ER for in the first place. This leave people in Ottawa, and other cities around the province, with their only option being to go to a hospital.
While there will always be a need for large health institutions, like hospital, where centralized, expensive treatment, equipment, and care can take place, clinics need to play a much more prominent part in our day-to-day use of the health care system. The province should provide incentives for clinics to be set up across the province, with the focus on providing a wide range of common treatments and procedures that people are wastefully forced to go to a hospital to receive. Incentives could come in the form of funding prioritized by the satisfaction of the patients, the results of inspections, and the cost savings of their operation. These incentives, and the resulting competition, would provide people with a wide range of excellent, and affordable, clinic choices. These organizations would of course be staffed with doctors and licensed nurses, and would still be required to uphold the highest standards of medical care.
By providing these secondary facilities for minor medical issues you are taking a major burden off the provinces hospitals and allowing them to focus physical and monetary resources on improving the life-saving treatment, and urgent-care, that they are best suited to deal with.