Walk In Clinics

Canadian Snowbirds often have experiences with walk in clinics in Canada. These clinics are typically staffed by caring professionals and doctors.

We know this from personal experience in Canada. We also now know this from an on line review of walk in clinics in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Alberta. Their sites confirm the fact that the healthcare providers at these facilities are professional, certified doctors.

If you ever have the need to visit a walk in clinic in Canada you will be seen by a Doctor.

Canadian Snowbirds may presume that walk in clinics in Florida, or elsewhere, will be staffed by professional and certified doctors as well.  Caution. This may not be the case!

Walk In Clinics - www.canadian-snowbird.com

Florida Walk In Clinics

During February one year, while in Florida, we had a small health emergency. We contacted our health insurance company, as is required, and were referred to a number of clinics.

One of the clinics accessible to us was Paramount Urgent Care. We visited, and in due course the patient was seen, pronounced OK, and we left. Shortly after we had to go back to the clinic for the same symptoms which had not abated.

Note: More than one clinic visit for the same issue is considered a previous condition by them, so your travel insurance will likely not cover you for it. Though, if you are going back to the clinic for the same problem, it’s not as if you had a choice now, is it?

During the second visit for the same set of medical circumstances as the first – to the same clinic – the second “attendant” did a far greater level of questioning of the symptoms, and a much more thorough physical examination of the patient than did the first!

Why was that? Why weren’t both visits to the same clinic for the same symptoms investigated at the same effective level as was experienced on the second visit?

We understand that a second visit should not have been necessary had the first “attendant” done a through investigation of the patient. Was it lack of skill, no experience, a Medic Assistant instead of a physician that attended the patient?

Are They Even Doctors?

Our experiences with the walk in clinic and our concerns prompted me to investigate further.

When I queried Paramount about the qualifications of the health care providers at their clinics, they replied by email “Please be advised that we have both Medical Doctors and Certified Physician Assistants on our staff. All providers are trained to render the same quality of care.

They do not not say that there is a Medical Doctor at each clinic. We did not see any Doctor on premise when we visited for either treatment and we were there for hours.

Since the  quality of diagnostic care provided in our first visit was inadequate, and the second visit far better – resulting in a treatment that worked –  it makes me wonder about Physician oversight of the care givers at this clinic or any clinic in Florida, or anywhere else for that matter.

On Paramount Urgent Care’s own website (http://www.paramounturgentcare.com) it says in their services section that “We treat a variety of injuries including simple fractures and lacerations requiring stitches; as well as many symptoms and chronic conditions as treated by a family doctor.” Note that they treat patients “as treated by a family doctor”, not by a family doctor.

No where on their site does it say what qualifications that the care providers in each clinic have to have. I did note that they were seeking to hire the following:

  • Medic/MA
  • Physician Assistant

A Medic / MA is, Wikipedia states,  “an allied health professional that supports the work of physicians and other health professionals, usually in a clinic setting. Medical assistants can become certified through an accredited program usually offered through a junior or community college. … Or,  “The term “medical assistant” may have legal status in jurisdictions where they can be certified or registered, whereas elsewhere they may be a loosely defined group (covering related occupational titles such as ‘medical office assistant’, ‘clinical assistant’, ‘assistant medical officer’, or ‘ophthalmic assistant’). The occupation should not be confused with physician assistants, who are licensed professionals trained to practice medicine and surgical procedures in collaboration with a physician.

So, the Medic or MA you might see in a clinic may have reasonable qualifications, or, could have no qualifications to treat patients at all.  They are not licensed to practice medicine.

The clinic was trying to hire a Physician Assistant too, which is “a healthcare professional who provides healthcare within the medical model as part of a team with physicians and other providers, holding a qualification that can be gained in less time than a medical degree. In the United States, physician assistants are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician.”

The problem is, the Physician Assistant is supposed to provide medical care “under the supervision of a physician.” Nope, didn’t see any Physicians listed or even referred to on the Paramount Urgent Care, Inc. website or at the clinic. Was there a physician on the clinic site when we visited?

The upshot of this experience is that we sure won’t visit Paramount Urgent Care again…ever, and a complaint about the results of our first two experiences there will be directed to the appropriate agencies.

We will check the qualifications of the health care provider at any walk in clinic we may have to visit in future, before we visit and  submit our health care to their hands.

If the health situation requires a quicker response than one that will allow us to do due diligence about the local clinic, we’ll opt for a hospital emergency room visit instead.

Our experience makes us very concerned about the quality of care at any walk in clinic in Florida and elsewhere and this something that you need to consider too if visiting the Sunshine State or any other locale offering different health care standards than we are used to in Canada.

Take care, Snowbirds.

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