Virtual walk-in clinics may contribute more strain to health-care system: OMA

The virtual platform is struggling to stay afloat

The Ontario Medical Associations says virtual walk-in clinics may be contributing to the strain on the province’s overwhelmed health-care system.

The comments come at a time when pediatric hospitals, emergency departments and the overall health-care system are struggling to meet the demands of a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, the seasonal flu and COVID-19.

OMA president Dr. Rose Zacharias says research has found that virtual walk-in patients are twice as likely to visit an emergency department within 30 days due to a lack of continuity of care.

That’s in contrast to criticism from some parents and doctors who say virtual walk-in clinics provide greater access to care and prevent them from visiting emergency rooms with less urgent matters.

Ontario reached an agreement with the OMA earlier this year that, as of Dec. 1, reduced fees paid to doctors for many virtual visits.

Virtual walk-in platform Rocket Doctor has said the changes have resulted in 85 per cent of its physicians leaving the platform, while other online clinics have shut down urgent care services completely.

Banner image: Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre – Barrie – file photo

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2022.