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Who says house calls are a thing of the past?

THINK it's uncommon for doctors to make house calls these days?

Actually, there are lots of Manitoba physicians who will come to your door if you're ill.

Don Miller greets Jan Williams and Dr. Paul Sawchuk, with his portable medical kit in tow. Several services in Winnipeg have doctors who make regular house calls.

PHOTOS BY KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Don Miller greets Jan Williams and Dr. Paul Sawchuk, with his portable medical kit in tow. Several services in Winnipeg have doctors who make regular house calls. Photo Store

According to Manitoba Health, some 445 doctors made 31,000 calls to patients' homes in the province in 2011.

Generally, Manitoba Health pays some $880,000 a year in fees to doctors just to knock on their patients' doors, a department spokesman said. The fees are in addition to whatever care the MDs provide after they arrive.

A check of the city Yellow Pages reveals several clinics that specialize in house calls.

Jake Davids, dispatcher and manager of house calls with the Four Rivers Clinic on Main Street near Dufferin Avenue, said a couple of the clinic's doctors do house calls exclusively.

Another sees patients in the clinic but will go out on calls at the end of the day.

Their patients tend to be children and the elderly.

"Generally speaking, it's a lot of elderly people who just can't make it out of the house," said Davids.

However, the clinic doesn't tend to treat patients with chronic diseases.

"We see it as an as-needed service, whereas we suggest that any long-term health needs be addressed by their primary-care physician."

With children, doctors are called primarily for colds, flu-type symptoms and ear infections. Older patients may need a prescription or require doctor's orders for dressing changes.

The clinic's clients often don't own a car or find it difficult to travel to the doctor by bus, Davids said.

To cut down on travel time, Four Rivers' doctors tend to restrict calls to central and northeastern parts of the city. However, they will work in the occasional trip outside the area if it is convenient.

Another doctor house-calls service based on Main Street, Envoy Medical Dispatch, has been operating for decades.

Michelle Gibbs, an assistant with Envoy, said the children of housebound parents tend to be the service's main clients. Generally, the calls are for less serious conditions such as earaches, coughs and colds, she said.

Envoy once had a large stable of doctors who did more than 200 house calls a day. But it has now scaled back its operation to two doctors who each go out on 15 to 20 calls per day.

Like Four Rivers, Envoy does not take on chronically ill patients. Neither does it try to supplant a client's family doctor. In fact, if a patient calls more than once or twice a month, the service will refer that person to their family physician, Gibbs said.

"We don't see patients on a regular basis," she said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 A7

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