Campaign continues for nurse practitioners

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - As community support for a nurse practitioner in Amherst continues to rise, the Cumberland Health Authority is going to do what it can help establish a collaborative practice in the community.
"The health authority would certainly entertain any proposal that might come forward from a local family physician to establish a collaborative practice and would work with both the physician and the Department of Health to help secure funding to bring a nurse practitioner to the practice," authority CEO Bruce Quigley said Wednesday.
The health authority has nurse practitioners working in Advocate, River Hebert, Parrsboro, Springhill and Pugwash, but they all work through the Cumberland North or Cumberland South Rural Practice Networth and the collaborating physicians have contracts with the CHA and the department.
"Until very recently, the only family physicians that could be part of a collaborative practice were those on contract. A recent change to the regulations now allows family physicians that operate on a fee-for-service basis to be part of a collaborative practice," Quigley added. "Now that these regulations have changed, it may open the door for more family doctors to consider working in a collaborative practice situation."
Quigley's comments come as a Facebook group established by Amherst town councillor Robert Bird has surpassed the 400-member mark. Bird is lobbying the province to bring nurse practitioners to Amherst after the community's only after-hours clinic closed its doors last fall because of a physician shortage.
"The site has only been up for about two weeks and we already have more than 400 members," said Bird, who used the after-hours clinic for two years after moving back to Amherst several years ago.
"The response has been amazing and demonstrates the need for nurse practitioners in this community."
Bird doesn't expect the site alone will spur the Department of Health into action, but should provide the local health authority and the province with an indicator of the community's wishes.
"I believe it's a case of the squeaky wheel will get the grease. If this community makes enough noise, it will get some action," Bird said. "The site is a gauge of community support. If you were to get five members you could say it's not worth going on, but when it's over 400 members there's an indication that this is an important issue for the community."
Bird said there are still a lot of people in this town without a doctor and feels the shortage and the closure of the after-hours clinic last fall has to be having an impact on the hospital.
The clinic, operated out of the Amherst Family Health Clinic on Robert Angus Drive, served those in the community without a family doctor and helped ease the strain on the emergency room at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.
The clinic's owner, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, said in November she'd reopen the practice if the province were to provide funding for one or two nurse practitioners.
Working in a collaborative practice with a physician, nurse practitioners are able to diagnose and manage many disorders and chronic diseases, prescribe some medication and refer patients to specialists.
Amherst has sent a letter to the province asking for it to consider providing the funding to establish nurse practitioners in the town.

Organizations: Cumberland Health Authority, Department of Health, Amherst Family Health Clinic on Robert Angus Drive Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre

Geographic location: AMHERST, River Hebert, Pugwash Cumberland North

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