What responsibility does a walk-in clinic have to a patient with a potential head injury?
That’s the question a Walnut Grove father is asking after his six-year-old son was turned away from one clinic while another took him immediately, ahead of other waiting patients.
Rory Walker was waiting outside James Kennedy Elementary to pick up his six-year-old son Brendan on Thursday afternoon when he saw the boy take a tumble as his class ran laps outside the school.
From his vantage point, Walker said, the fall didn’t look too serious so he decided to let the school handle it. Five minutes later, he received a phone call and went inside to get Brendan.
In addition to hitting his head in the fall, the boy had badly skinned his fingers, which were cleaned and wrapped at the school.
However, Walker didn’t want to take any chances with a possible serious head injury and decided to take Brendan to see a doctor.
When he got to the Redwoods Medical Clinic near his house, Walker says he was shocked to be turned away by the woman at the counter.
“She said, ‘No, we’re closed for the day,’ and something about too many patients.
“I said, ‘Seriously, with a head injury?’
“’No, we’re closed.’”
Brendan is small for his age, and sitting behind a high counter the woman wouldn’t have been able to see the child standing there, covered in blood, Walker said. But, he said, she didn’t look.
“Her attitude was, ‘I don’t care.’ She didn’t say it, but that’s what I got from it.”
So Walker took his son to The Grove Medical walk-in clinic, just under three kilometres away, which appeared to be busier than the first clinic.
“I didn’t have to say anything. The lady behind the counter said, ‘Head injury — we’ll get him in right away.’”
Afterward, Walker told the woman he’d been turned away from Redwoods because they were closed.
“We’re closed, too,” she told him. “But any head trauma should be taken in right away.”
Brendan’s head and fingers were examined and his hand bandaged before Walker took him home with instructions to watch for signs of a concussion.
While the head injury turned out to be less serious than he’d feared, Walker is furious that it took a visit to a second clinic to determine that.
As a father, he couldn’t be more pleased with the way the school handled his son’s injury or with the treatment Brendan received at the Grove Medical clinic. Clinic office manager Sandi Hutzkal said that there is a government-imposed limit on the number of patients a doctor can see each day. However, it is her clinic’s policy to never turn away a patient who has a head injury or is exhibiting symptoms such as profuse bleeding, chest pains and shortness of breath that clearly require emergency treatment.
If a doctor is in the clinic, these patients will be seen, Hutzkal said.
Walker is also grateful to the other patients for understanding when his son jumped the queue to see a doctor.
Janice Mahendra, a receptionist who was on shift at the time Walker said he brought his son into the clinic, explained it is the policy of Redwoods clinic, that if there is a doctor in the building, to have him or her examine any child who comes in with a head injury or bleeding.
However, Mahendra said, she has no recollection of that having happened on Thursday afternoon.
“As far as I know, there was no situation of a child coming in with a head injury or bloody. I’m not aware of it at all.
“Redwoods clinic is a professional clinic with the highest (level) of physicians,” she said.
“This is not clinic protocol to turn away a child. I’m shocked and surprised (by the allegation),” said Mahendra.