A walk-in clinic might help reduce Creston emergency room waits

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To the Editor:

I am a senior and moved to Creston a year ago. I have been to the various medical clinics in town trying to find a doctor, and have been told there are none available and there are no waiting lists. I was told to go to the emergency department at the hospital if I have a problem.

A few weeks ago, I did have a small problem that needed attention, and I needed a prescription refilled. I went to the hospital at 1 p.m. thinking that the morning rush might be over and it wouldn’t take too long to see a doctor. The wait was very long indeed. I had not thought to bring my reading glasses, but I read almost every article in the available magazines until my eyes were burning with fatigue. Dr. Phil was on TV trying to solve a personal crisis but I couldn’t hear the program as the volume was too low (this is OK, as I realize a loud program would be very disrupting). Chitchat with other folks waiting to be seen revealed that they had also been there for hours, one man since before lunch. He wanted to go out for something to eat, but was afraid to lose his place in the lineup.

At no time did any staff speak to us or indicate what was going on. Occasionally, a nurse would check to see if there was a new name in the basket, and would process that person before disappearing again.

Three hours later, my name was called and I was shown to a room with two beds and some chairs. Great, I thought, I will soon see the doctor. I sat in that room for another hour and a quarter. I was getting hungry, thirsty and cranky! Finally, the doctor came in, quickly checked my problem, referred me to a specialist and OK’d me prescription refill, all in under five minutes.

In the community I moved from, also a small rural town, they also had a doctor shortage when two doctors retired and another moved back to England. They set up a walk-in clinic, with each of the doctors taking a turn one morning a week. It opened at 9 a.m., usually with a lineup outside the door. The receptionist took your information and gave you a number and an approximate time of your appointment, spaced 15 minutes apart. Patients were seen on a first come, first served basis. If you were a later arrival, you had time to go and do some shopping or have a coffee before being seen. This system worked very well, and took the pressure off the hospital emergency station. The walk-in clinic was great for minor ailments or having a prescription filled, leaving the hospital free to deal with real emergencies.

I’m just wondering if there isn’t a better way for Creston to treat its seniors and newcomers that need medical attention. Is a walk-in clinic something that could work here?

Sheila Watson


(Editor’s Note: Sheila Watson was put on the waiting list for a doctor the day she submitted her letter.)