I am “on call” for the after-hours clinic tonight. I am supposed to be available for 3 hours, from 5-8pm, to see patients in our call group. It’s March Break, so I expected it to be kind of quiet. But not this quiet! I’ve seen one patient! What a waste of time! I feel bad because my husband is home alone all day with the kids and as I sit here catching up on work but not actually seeing any patients, he has to put the kidlets to bed without me. It is what it is and it only happens once every 6 weeks or so, but I wish it was busier. At least then I wouldn’t feel guilty about not being home. Instead, I feel guilty because I’m here, updating my blog. (Don’t tell him, ‘k?)
After-hours care is important – I just wish patients would use it more wisely. I know it’s easy to just go to the local walk-in-clinic (WIC) but what patients don’t realize is that their family doctor gets dinged for it by the government. If I have rostered a patient to my practice, then that means that patient should see only me. I get paid a certain amount of money per patient, per year. If that patient that I am getting paid for, regardless if I see them or not, goes to a WIC, the government takes that money away from me. It also makes our group’s numbers look bad. We are supposed to be keeping our patients out of WICs. We get a certain amount of money per year to keep our patients out of WICs. When that money gets depleted, and it often does, our group goes into a negative balance and the government keeps track of this. If we are constantly in a negative balance it means we aren’t doing our jobs right and the government can dissolve our group. Patients need to be told this, and I make every effort to explain this, but I think something is getting lost in translation. Patients either pretend they understand, then forget and just go to the local WIC becasue “it was convenient”, or they simply just don’t care. I’m really not sure which it is.
As I sit here, tired and counting the minutes to when I can go home and hug my husband and tuck-in my kids, I wonder how many of my patients are at WICs right now.