More … than 100,000 Nova Scotians don’t have a family doctor, and a new mobile health clinic is tasked with helping them and others access primary care.
Nova Scotia Health’s Mobile Primary Care Clinic is a new venture intended to respond to pressure on a health care system that is leaving emergency rooms in parts of the province beyond capacity.
The pop-up clinics have been set up in Halifax and Antigonish from Friday to Sunday, offering walk-in services like refilling prescriptions and treating non-fatal health conditions.
“We have a lot of access issues across the province, especially in primary care,” said Tara Sampalli, chief scientific officer of Nova Scotia Health. “And it’s not just because we have so many people waiting to access primary care providers, but it’s also because we’re understaffed.”
Sampalli said the idea for this type of care was in the works before post-tropical storm Fiona in September, but the first clinic was set up in Cape Breton the day after the storm. She said it was such a success that the project continued.
Eric Coates, Nova Scotia Health’s director of clinical transformation for the Central Health Zone, said emergency departments at IWK Health Center and Cobequid Community Health Center have seen an increase in non-emergency cases over the past last week, which required pop- a clinic in Halifax.
He said the demand in emergency departments is only expected to increase. Thus, mobile clinics will continue to reach the communities with the most acute needs and adapt to their unique circumstances.
He said planning is underway for future pop-ups, but no location has been decided yet.
Joexed Alcontin and his wife, May Tolentino, emigrated to Halifax from the Philippines a year ago. They don’t have a family doctor.
They tried to go to the Cobequid Community Health Center to have Tolentino’s stitches removed, but were told the wait was too long. Instead, they were referred to the mobile clinic in Halifax.
Nurse practitioners, paramedics and public health nurses have been housed in the Mumford Professional Centre, inside a Dalhousie health clinic that is not used on weekends.
Alcontin said they were in and out within an hour and were surprised at the efficiency and friendliness of the staff. He said it seemed like a good strategy to tackle the doctor shortage while the province looks for a longer-term solution.
“At least they’re doing a different thing to assess the problem,” Alcontin said. “It’s not really a direct approach but at least they have an alternative at the moment.”
Alternative to walk-in clinics
Madge MacLean also visited the pop-up venue in Mumford to receive a cortisone injection in her knee. She doesn’t have a family doctor and says she’s been trying to get seen at a walk-in clinic for two weeks with no luck.
“I couldn’t even get to most places, and 10 minutes after the clinic opened, they say they were booked for the day, so I really don’t know how it’s going,” said- she declared. “But anyway, I came here, I didn’t have an appointment, they took me right away.”
Ms MacLean said she felt vulnerable without a family doctor, but the mobile clinic helped ease her fears of getting sick.
“I think it’s…a good start to help relieve emergency clinics,” she said. “For me, I don’t think I should go to the ER for what I wanted, it was a cortisone needle. But I’m not dying sick, so I don’t want to take that space away from someone. a.”
Coates said the Halifax clinic saw 55 people on Friday, 69 people on Saturday and was already seeing a consistent midday volume on Sunday.