Winnipeg's first Quick Care Clinic opened recently at 363 McGregor Street. On my way to work this morning, I spied another one opening up in the freshly re-clad IC Computing building on St.Mary's near Marion.
This would be the St.Boniface location, of the 8 planned for Manitoba. It's an easily accessible location and occupies a building that has been vacant for a year or two, which is nice to see.
Of the McGregor location, our Minister of Health, Theresa Oswald, declared "This new clinic is about offering patients choice."
Part of us wonders how much choice these new clinics really add. There are, of course, medical clinics already scattered throughout the city. They are privately owned and staffed by doctors who can perform all of the same services that the new Quick Care Clinics provide and more. Is this just a case of the government branching out into the territory of private enterprise and cannibalizing their business?
The big draw seems to be the extended hours: open until 9:00 pm weekdays and 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays. In that regard it will be better than most private clinics, including the one in my neighbourhood, which is due to get a new QCC sometime in the near future.
In theory, the clinics should be cheaper because they are staffed by registered nurses and nurse practitioners instead of doctors. Nurses are well paid, but the doctors who work in walk-in clinics get paid based on how many patients they push through the gates every day, not an annual salary. This may result in a rushed experience for some people, and perhaps that's another advantage of the new clinics -- the salaried nurses may take a little more time mending the burnt hand you got experimenting with deep-frying marshmallows.
The concept of a nurse practitioner clinic is not new in Manitoba. Internet pharmacy mogul Darren Jorgenson opened the Four Rivers Medical Clinic in 2010 to perform basic medical care for a fee. This no doubt pissed off the folks on Broadway and is very likely the impetus for the new Quick Care Clinics that you see now.
So if these clinics have longer hours and cheaper health care providers, it's all good, right? Well, equipping and staffing the clinics themselves will be costly. How do you tell if the increased "choice" offsets the increased cost to taxpayers? As well, this could also have a negative effect on certain actual medical clinics. If all the people with easily treatable wounds and coughs go to the QCCs, the actual clinics will be left with fewer and more complicated patients. With fewer people going through, and more time spent per treatment, profits will drop.
I have to wonder, for example, what might become of the small Lang Medical Clinic when the new St.Mary's Quick Care Clinic opens up only one block away. The people in the area might have gained a nurse practitioner, but lost a doctor.