The average wait times in walk-in clinics in Alberta have increased to over an hour in 2023; an over 30-minute increase since 2022.

Locally, two clinics in Airdrie which use Medimap, a tech company that matches patients with walk-in clinics, posted an average wait time of 42 minutes. 

A newly published report by Medimap shows that while Alberta is slightly below the national average wait time of 68 minutes, our increase in average wait time from 2022 is the second highest in the country, with Ontario leading.

Data from Medimap shows wait times in walk-in clinics across provinces over the past several years. (Graphic credit to Medimap)Data from Medimap shows wait times in walk-in clinics across provinces over the past several years. (Graphic credit to Medimap)

The Medimap Walk-in Clinic Wait Time Index used data collected from the majority of walk-in clinics across Canada that use the company’s software to publish wait times online.  Approximately 70 per cent of walk-in clinics across Canada use Medimap to share their wait times.

Calgary's average wait time in a walk in clinic was over an hour, which is only slightly below the national wait time average. (Graphic Credit to Medimap)Calgary's average wait time in a walk-in clinic was over an hour, which is only slightly below the national wait time average. (Graphic Credit to Medimap)

Thomas Jankowski, CEO of Medimap, explained that while the data is not overly surprising, there is a strong pattern of longer wait times across most metro areas in the country. Jankowski said two elements may be contributing to the long wait times. 

"One is [on] the supply side. We've heard about the shortage of doctors, but the shortage of doctors is happening in three different places. You've got the top end of the age demographic, where we're seeing record numbers of doctors retiring because they're part of the biggest generation that we've seen for a while; the boomer generation. Then we've got the same doctors at the top end of the age demographic, retiring earlier."

In decades past, Jankowski said many doctors would continue working well into their 70's, while today doctors, are retiring between the age of 50 and 60.

"Then you've got the middle of the demographic, the doctors in their 40s and 50s, who are shuttering walk-in clinics, because it's just not worth it."

The increase in closures of family doctor practices has been something that the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) sounded an alarm on recently. According to the AMA, 61 percent of family physicians are planning on leaving their practice, with 21 percent not expecting to survive the next six months. 

Jankowski said that the problem is compounded by younger doctors no longer opening family practices and simply going into something else altogether.

"On the demand side, [it's] the exact opposite. You've got the same demographic, the boomers [are] retiring right now, trying to access more health care services as they age; and then you've got the young immigrants coming in, who in many cases come with young kids and toddlers who also need health care services. All of this is creating this poorly lopsided picture."

Due to the lack of family doctor offices, Jankowski said this has also put immense strain on the emergency health departments and urgent care centres.

"We get data from several different hospitals throughout the country and we see the moment that walk-ins closed, those E.R. [wait] times jumped through the roof. This is a different side of the problem, because those same patients who would have gone into a walk-in and cost the system, let's say a typical $30, now [they're] going for the same thing into a hospital and waiting, perhaps 20 hours - a typical wait time for a low acuity patient at an E.R."

Jankowski estimates that a patient waiting in a hospital for a low acuity problem can cost the healthcare system upwards of $300.

The only province in the country which saw a decrease in wait time from 2022 was Nova Scotia, which Jankowksi said is a reflection of some of the policies that are being implemented in that province.

"Pharmacists are being given an increase in their scope of practice to be able to handle minor ailments, and Nova Scotia opened that up earliest. Ontario introduced changes to the scope of practice for pharmacists last year, and we saw something like 70,000 appointments in 2023 alone, that were handled by pharmacists."

Jankowski said that while Alberta's attempt to expand the scope of nurse practitioners has been seen by some as contentious, that model has appeared to work stateside, where nurse practitioner-owned clinics have done well. 

When asked if there is any early modelling for what wait times will be like in 2024, he said that Medimap does not publish numbers before the year is finished. However, he said that looking at real-time data for the first quarter of 2024 does not bode well.

"I can tell you that Q1 2024 is looking far more abysmal than 2023," he added. 

Earlier this month, the province announced that several million dollars in funding would be going towards improvements in the primary health care system.

"The first allocation of $12 million for 2023-24 has been given to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), which will administer the program," the province stated previously. 

The funding supports are part of the Panel Management Support Program, which is meant to help offset costs for primary care providers to provide comprehensive care as their patient panels grow, which is part of the larger Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) initiative.

Next week, the province will announce its 2024 budget. While little is known, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith assured Albertans that budgetary priorities include healthcare, education, and social support. 

Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to You can also message and follow us on Twitter: @AIR1061FM

DiscoverAirdrie encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the DiscoverAirdrie app. For breaking news, weather and contest alerts click here.