Students report long wait-times at walk-in clinic

Health Services receives thousands of students per week, has only 20 physicians

Students frustrated by wait-times at La Salle.
Journal file photo

Several students have reported long wait-times and rushed appointments at Health Services. 

Despite receiving funds from student fees, provincial ministry grants, administrative funds through OHIP and University support, Student Wellness Services struggles to keep up with the weekly flood of students. 

Each day between Sept. 16 and 22, Health Services received over 200 students in both the walk-in clinic and booked appointments. On a typical afternoon, there are only seven physicians in the clinic supported by five nurses. There are 20 physicians in total. 

One of the students experiencing long wait-times, Erin Caldwell, ArtSci’ 20, told The Journal she hasn’t gone to the walk-in clinic in years. 

“I’ve never had a visit that’s less than four or five hours,” she said. “I haven’t been because you have to wait so long, and then for a really brushed-off kind of visit. I either go to KGH because of my asthma or if it’s just something small I go to the walk-in clinic downtown.”

After missing classes because of long wait-times, she began to structure her appointments around lectures instead of tests and exams.

“You go there, and you know it’s going to be a long time, so you plan around that,” she said. 

Sarah*, ArtSci ’20, who spoke with The Journal on condition of anonymity, went to the walk-in clinic on Sep. 20, where she waited an hour for her number to be called. 

“You go to a clinic for it to be faster than the emergency room and when you’re waiting there for three hours longer than you’d wait in the emergency room, it’s not enjoyable,” she said in an interview. 

After her number was called, Sarah waited another 45 minutes to see a doctor. 

“My big problem with [the walk-in clinic] is it takes so long to get things done there,” she said. “It’s just the amount of time you have to wait for things.”

There are currently three rooms at the walk-in clinic. 

According to a statement from the University, they’re “planning for at least four” in the soon-coming Côté Sharp Student Wellness Centre. 

Sarah told The Journal the size of the waiting room makes her “uncomfortable.”

“A lot of the people that go to the walk-in clinic have a cold or the flu,” she said. “It’s just such tight quarters when you’re there that you almost feel like you’re getting sick because there’s no room to breathe.”

Like Caldwell, Sarah also missed class due to long wait-times. “I showed up two hours before my class started, and I still missed it,” she said. 

“When you make an appointment you’d think, I’ll go and they’ll be ready for me and it’ll take less than an hour to get everything done,” she continued. “Then you spend most of your time in the waiting room and once you get into the doctor’s office it feels like they try to rush you right out of there.” 

Jennifer Dods, executive director of Health Services, wrote in an email to The Journal that “the University is committed to supporting student health and wellness.”

“We have expanded our hours in Health Services and worked to maximize capacity so we can see as many students as possible,” she wrote. 

Dods also stressed how many students use the clinic. 

“This year is already another very busy one,” she wrote.

From 2017-18, there were more than 34,000 booked appointments at Health Services for almost 10,000 students. 

“We want to give students the care they need, and we are working hard every day to adjust schedules so we can see students who need to be seen by a physician that day,” Dods added.

One way Health Services is trying to decrease frustration is to make the walk-in clinic registration more accessible. 

“Based on student feedback, we are adjusting the walk-in clinic registration process so that students have a better sense of how long they will be waiting before seeing a physician and they can go and do something, and come back at the right time,” Dods wrote. 

“We appreciate that wait times can be frustrating, and we will continue to look at how we can adjust our processes further to reduce the amount of time students are waiting to see a health care professional.”


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