Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit has set up a new system for patients who need to see a doctor for non-emergency care.

Dr. Alison McCallum came up with what the hospital is calling rapid access appointments.


Dr. Alison McCallum at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit came up with the new same-day clinic visit system the hospital is calling rapid access appointments. (CBC)

"It allows patients who need to be seen on the same day for a same-day short visit that answers their immediate needs," said McCallum.

No one in Nunavut has a regular family doctor. In Iqaluit, patients seek care at the hospital clinic, where appointments are often booked up weeks in advance. Patients seeking urgent but non-emergency care end up at the emergency room.

The new rapid access appointment system works like this: people call or come to the clinic, register, and are told when in the day they could be seen. The appointments are short, about 10 minutes, to deal quickly with immediate needs.

It’s on a first-come, first-served basis and patients can wait at home instead of at the hospital.

"This is for people who do not have emergency illnesses or who do not need to be cared for immediately for something life-threatening," said McCallum.

McCallum hopes to have one nurse and one doctor see up to 30 patients a day.

The new system started last month.

"Emergency, of course, likes it because it's no longer over-burdening the emergency department with non-emergencies," said McCallum.

Bernie Schmidt, executive director at Qikiqtani General Hospital, said the system is in a trial period.

"We've received some one-time funding to support the initiative going forward which includes more physicians, more nurse practitioners," he said.

So far, rapid access seems to be working. If it proves itself, it could become permanent at the hospital.

"Ever since this started, it's been quiet, and a lot more people are being seen by the doctor every day," said Maggie Ukaliannuk, a receptionist at Qikiqtani General Hospital.

"And us, we're happy to see the people who are coming out in the day when they're done with the doctor’s appointment."