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New partnership created for people needing screening follow-up

Patients without a doctor can now utilise a new service after certain screening appointments
TBRHSC summer three

THUNDER BAY — Patients without family doctors who require follow-up appointments from breast screening appointments will now have a way to receive that care. 

A new partnership, announced on Monday, will allow patients who don't have a primary care provider to have the option to use Lakehead Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic for required follow-up appointments. 

Previously, patients had to seek out walk-in clinics or use the emergency department for this care, which can lead to longer wait times at the hospital for something that can be administered in a medical office setting. 

“Individuals who may be reluctant to get screened for cancer because they do not have a primary care provider can self-refer themselves for breast screening and feel less anxiety knowing they will be cared for after when follow-up is required,” said Tarja Heiskanen, the manager of screening and assessment at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Heiskanen also said the gap is growing. 

"There are more than 30,000 patients currently without a primary care provider, and that gap continues to expand," Heiskanen said. "Doctors are either leaving or retiring, leaving patients without a primary care physician."

Andrea Ruel, a medical radiation technologist and breast patient navigator with Ontario Breast Screening and at the Linda Buchan Breast Assessment Centre, is part of a three-person team that aids patients through the process. She noted that there's a lot of work behind the scenes with little to no effect on the patient. 

If a patient requires follow-up care, she and her team do the leg work. They will contact the patient and explain what will happen next in terms of appointment bookings, what to expect in the follow-up tests and so forth. Ruel explained that she and her team book appointments for patients across the region, including at satellite locations at Ontario Breast Screening affiliates. 

The province has guidelines on appointment turnaround times, for those needing a follow-up but no samples needed, they are reaching the five-week window set out by the Ministry of Health. Patients needing to provide samples like biopsies are usually booked at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and are typically seen within the seven-week window; however, that is proving more difficult regionally. 

Heiskanen is excited for the new partnership to start and is grateful for the Lakehead Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in assisting patients. 

More details about the Nurse Practicioner Lead Clinic and cancer screening on the Screen for Life bus can be found here. 

Katie Nicholls, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Katie Nicholls, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Originally from central Ontario, Katie moved here to further her career in the media industry.
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