THUNDER BAY – A partnership between NorWest Community Health Centres and three family-health clinics should help patients access a wider range of services under one roof.
Team Care will deliver foot care services, mental health therapy, system navigation, dietary care and wellness and health promotion to the Port Arthur Health Centre, Superior Family Health Organization and the Aurora Family Health Clinic.
The inter-professional approach was designed to improve teamwork, communication and collaboration between the partners, allowing patients to access the care they need in a timely manner. Health-care professionals will travel from clinic to clinic at the request of referring family physicians, as services are required.
Port Arthur Health Centre physician Chris Allison said it’s one of the best things to happen to medicine in Thunder Bay in quite some time.
“The team approach to care of patients is, I think, the way to go,” he said. “The way funding works at our clinic, means that we did not have access to these services directly. With the new initiative we have three people in the clinic at all times and the access to foot care through (the NorWest Community Health Centre) so it will be a great advantage to our patients.”
Counselling, for example, can be conducted relatively quickly, which is not the case when referrals to other centres are involved.
“I think one of the most important things is the system navigator. They are people who help patients get through the various services that are available, how to access them, to help with transportation to get to appointments, that kind of things,” Allison said.
“I think one of the most important things that this initiative will do is that it’s in house. In my office ... I can say we have a problem here, can we help deal with it, and it’s fast. Before this it was a matter of making the referral. The referral goes out and when it comes back to the patient, or how it gets back there, I don’t know.”
Juanita Lawson, chief executive officer at the NorWest Community Health Centres, said they receive funding to provide services to several health care centres and clinics in the community.
Lawson said there are many people living in Thunder Bay who don’t have access to primary care. The quicker a patient can be seen, the better the likely outcome, she added.
“We know that when we can provide timely access to care, it helps alleviate some of the stresses that they’re under and will increase their health and well-being in our community,” Lawson said, speaking specifically of mental-health care.
The program is funded through the Northwest Local Health Integration Network.