After several months trying out a new system for accepting same-day appointments, the Hay River Medical Clinic is ready to make some adjustments and to keep on evaluating how things work.
The new system, which began on April 3, involved the introduction of a phone-in option and the continuation of the option for patients to go to the Hay River Regional Health Centre in the morning, take a ticket and make a same-day appointment in person.
Patricia Schaub, the manager of primary care and community health with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, said the first evaluation process was completed around July 27 based on client feedback and statistics of use.
“I think we found both systems worked,” she said, adding that it is too soon to say if clients have a preference between the call-in or walk-in options.
Therefore, a new three-month evaluation will begin on Sept. 4.
However, there will be some adjustments based on the initial evaluation.
Paul Power, the executive assistant with the health authority, noted that calls were being dropped after nine minutes, if people had to be put on hold when calling in for a same-day appointment.
The health authority is working with its IT department and NorthwesTel to increase that available waiting time to up to 15 minutes as of Sept. 4.
In addition, the ticket distribution for walk-in clients will be moved down a hallway from the front desk of the Hay River Regional Health Centre to the desk at the medical clinic.
And tickets will be available beginning at 8:30 a.m., not 7:30 a.m., as of Sept. 4.
“We’re going to start booking at 8:30 a.m.,” said Power.
Those changes are aimed to decrease the number of trips to the medical clinic by walk-in patients, which was a concern by some community residents.
“It will be fewer trips for people wanting to access the clinic by walking in as opposed to phoning,” said Schaub.
Before the phone-in option, people had to take a ticket and come back when the appointments were handed out, if they didn’t want to wait. Depending on the time of the appointment, that may have meant a second or third trip to the clinic.
Some people, especially those with mobility issues and/or without vehicles, objected to the old system. An online petition calling for changes was launched.
In the spring of 2017, the health authority set up a working group, including health centre staff and members of the public, to look at the issue.
Schaub said the working group will look at the issue again after the end of the new three-month evaluation process to begin on Sept. 4.