THUNDER BAY – After nearly five years of pushing for an expansion, the Lakehead Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic has secured the funding to give an additional 1,600 patients access to a primary health care provider.
The province on Thursday announced an increase $434,000 in new base funding and $84,000 in one-time funding that will allow the clinic located on the former McKellar Hospital property to up its patient load by 50 per cent and increase their hours to evenings and Saturdays.
The clinic will add two full-time nurse practitioners to bring its total to six, bringing the patient capacity to 4,800.
Clinic administrator Kyle Jessiman said patients at the nurse practitioner-led clinic will have access to the same services as those who have a family doctor.
“They get the full scope of primary care practice here and any care they need. They don’t need to look for a family physician outside this clinic,” Jessiman said. “This is where they can get all those services – referrals, prescriptions, anything they need is done here.”
In addition to the new nurse practitioners, the new funding will allow for the hiring of an additional part-time registered nurse and social worker while their dietician will be made a full-time position.
Jessiman said those specialists, combined with the nurse practitioners, have proven to deliver primary care outcomes.
Having that complement of professionals under one roof improves efficiency, he added.
“Our goal is to have the patients seen the same day or the next day. It’s not always possible but now we’ll be able to have more hours of walk-in, more hours of booked appointments and they can see multiple providers,” Jessiman said.
“We have different programs where they come in and back to back will see the (nurse practitioner), pharmacist, dietician, nurse, social worker, depending on what their needs are. It really helps with the team approach to address what the needs are.”
Jessiman said estimates have pegged the number of people in the city without a primary care provider as high as 20,000.
Clinic director Pam Delgaty, whose patients range in age from two days old to 103 years old, said there is constantly demand from new patients as current physicians near retirement.
“Right now, we probably have 100 people a week applying to become patients,” Delgaty said. “We have a huge waiting list and it’s just going to grow. We’ll quickly be at capacity with this new funding.”
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro, who made the announcement alongside fellow MPP Michael Gravelle (Lib., Thunder Bay-Superior North), said an increased number of patients at the nurse practitioner-led clinic will divert traffic away from other facilities like the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
“Access to primary care leads to better health outcomes but it does relieve pressure in other parts of the system,” Mauro said.
“We know people who don’t have access to a primary care provider will utilize more frequently or as their only option walk-in clinics or will find themselves going to the emergency room. It doesn’t always provide that same level of quality care because you’re not getting the continuity or seeing the same health care professional.”