KAKABEKA FALLS – For over 15 years, the NorWest Community Health Centre has been providing care to rural and remote communities through its mobile health service. However, as the region’s aging population continues to require more health support, it is imperative for health care services to meet the demand.
Nearly 10,000 residents spread out across the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, the Municipality of Neebing, the Township of Conmee and the Township of O’Connor will be able to get faster health care support than ever before with the grand opening of the Evergreen Pharmacy and NorWest Community Health Centre walk-in clinic.
The facility was constructed to accommodate allied health professionals to increase the accessibility to multiple disciplinary healthcare teams in rural and remote.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for fast and reliable health care. With many flocking to get their vaccines, pharmacies like Evergreen had an overwhelming about of people at their door. During this time, Evergreen’s space was limited, but now the new building has enough room to fit a small coffee shop, as well as, convenience items for patrons to enjoy while they wait to receive their medication.
For NorWest Community Health Centre, the pandemic demonstrated challenges far beyond their scope. For the past two years, their mobile health unit travelled to countless locations to aid those who were unable to travel the great distance to receive medical care.
The collaborative hybrid model between NorWest Community Health Centres and Evergreen Pharmacy will enhance the Pharmacy’s delivery, as well as, explore the benefits of having a doctor and a nurse practitioner in the next room. Those benefits would mean that pharmacists and medical staff can work as a unit to provide the patient with a workable treatment that fits the patient’s needs.
In other words, if a patient has a bad reaction to a specific type of medication, the walk-in clinic staff and the pharmacists are there to ensure that the patient can get the medicine they need without having to wait for referrals.
Devon Myers and Henry Templeman, co-owners of Evergreen Pharmacy, officially opened their Kakabeka Falls location in 2017. And after five years of hard work, two of those years working tirelessly providing vaccinations to the public, they found the demand for their service was overwhelmingly needed in the community and surrounding area.
“So, we’ve been practicing in Kakabeka Falls for five years now, and the need and demand just kept growing where outgrowing our own space,” said Templeman. “So, we needed to look and see what was out there and there weren’t any other spaces to collaborate with the clinic and bring more services to the community. So, this is an opportunity to create a larger space, and create a good working environment where multiple health services can work together and serve the community.”
Myers explained, “we found ourselves in a position where we just jumped in with both feet and took on this project as was able to present it to another group of people.”
That group of people was the NorWest Community Health Centre, which will bring nurse practitioners and community health workers to operate right beside the Pharmacy. Vulnerable and at-risk clients will still have access to group programming and at-home care. However, Norwest plans to support referrals to other specialists in diabetes, foot care, mental health and dietary care from this location.
Says Juanita Lawson, CEO of NorWest Community Health Centres; “Canadians living in rural communities often lack access to the health care services they need, causing reduced physical and mental health compared to people living in larger cities. These trends are predominant in rural Northern Ontario where challenges in retaining health care providers increase these difficulties. Our new model will focus on enhancing the physical and mental well-being of individuals residing in these communities by providing access to interprofessional care and prioritizing making connections with the community. This new partnership with Evergreen Pharmacy is a step towards enhancing the care of residents residing in Oliver Paipoonge, Neebing, Conmee and O’Connor.
Another group Myers, Templeman, and Lawson reached out to was Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis, who was able to gather support from the Municipality of Neebing, the Township of Conmee and the Township of O’Connor to provide funding to staff the walk-in clinic with a nurse practitioner.
“Well, there was a bit of concern that there might not be financial support for a nurse practitioner to come here this year because the ministry works on an April 1 to March 31 schedule with their financing and this kind of fell between the cracks. So the municipalities of Oliver Paipoonge, Conmee, O’Connor, Gillies and Neebing got together, the heads of council, and we got a bit of a formula, so we are supplying the funding just in a total of $8000 for the eight months left in this year from Aug. 1 to when the year is up for finance, but in the meantime, we are working with the ministry of health to get the funding from them,” said Kloosterhuis.
Although the walk-in clinic won’t be fully operational until September, the Pharmacy is open for business and ready to meet all the demands patrons need.