Not easy getting an appointment at overloaded winter clinics

Doctor and patient

If you've been wrestling with the flu or gastro, you've been hearing about how you're supposed to go to winter clinics to help ease the pressure on emergency rooms. The problem is, it's not easy getting an appointment or seeing a doctor there.

Social media is full of comments about how hard it is to see a doctor at a winter clinic. After calling around over two days, CJAD 800 News found it couldn't get an appointment at winter clinics in Verdun, Chateauguay or Montreal West, which tell you in a recording that there are no more appointments available after you're on hold for awhile. Huntingdon's clinic is only open twice a month. Laval doesn't have any.

The process for getting an appointment is different all over: for some clinics, you have to register online, either for free or pay as much as $19 to have the online service Bonjour-Santé find you a spot within about 48 hours.

For other clinics such as Statcare, Brunswick, Lachine Mednam and the Queen Elizabeth, you take your chances at the walk-in clinic - sometimes having to line up early in the morning, with appointments sometimes running out by 9 a.m. or early afternoon.

In a statement to CJAD 800, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann admits the winter clinics aren't enough to fill the demand especially when the flu season creates more pressure on the healthcare system. 

McCann said they're working on improving things overall: they're counting on the new nurse-practioners as well as negotiations with doctors to pay them according to how many patients they see. In the meantime, she said people who don't have urgent healthcare needs should consult 811 first as well as get their flu shot.

The winter clinics were rolled out earlier this year at the beginning of last month.