HALIFAX – In itself, the addition of 39 health professionals won’t end chronic emergency room closures across the province, but Health Minister Randy Delorey said it will take some of the pressure off physicians and others working in the health care system as well as patients seeking care.
The minister announced nurse practitioners, family practice nurses, social workers and a physiotherapist will join 23 collaborative family practice teams in 17 communities including Parrsboro and Springhill.
“This announcement will help people showing up at emergency rooms because they don’t have access to primary care services,” the minister said Thursday. “This announcement is about expanded collaborative care teams providing additional health care providers like nurse practitioners and family practice nurses to practices in communities across the province.”
Springhill is receiving a family practice nurse while Parrsboro is receiving an additional nurse practitioner. Both hospitals have seen frequent emergency room closures.
There was nothing announced for Pugwash, which has also seen numerous closures.
Delorey said patients need better access to collaborative primary health care, and that continues to be government’s focus. These health professionals will not only better support family physicians and other health professionals, but provides care for more Nova Scotians.
Of the 23 teams, seven new teams are being created and 16 are being strengthened.
“The goal and the objective here is for these health care professionals and doctors to work collaboratively to ensure patients come in and are able to get the care they need from the health care provider best situated to provide that care,” the minister said.
The new primary health care professionals include 15 nurse practitioners, 17 family practice nurses, six social workers and a part-time physiotherapist. Some are joining practices in the following communities:
New collaborative family practice teams are being located in Dartmouth, Kentville, North Sydney and Glace Bay while expanded collaborative family practice teams will be in Dartmouth, Springhill, Sydney, Westville, Lunenburg and Windsor.
By expanding their practices and working collaboratively, these teams will be able to increase access to primary health care for more Nova Scotians, and many are accepting new patients from the Need a Family Practice registry. In other cases, they are stabilizing practices by keeping patients from being added to the registry.
There are additional health professionals being hired to work in communities to address immediate needs as well.
They are ensuring practices can continue seeing all the patients they're currently seeing, and over time some of these teams will be able to take on new ones.
These communities include Chester, Liverpool, Kingston, Musquodoboit Valley, Pictou, Parrsboro, Hatchet Lake, New Glasgow and Sydney.
The minister said access to primary care is not just an issue for rural Nova Scotia, but there have been challenges in urban centres as well. This is why Thursday’s announcement includes new and expanded collaborative teams in both rural and urban settings.
This builds on work last spring to create and strengthen teams across the province when 23 nurses were hired. These latest hires mean 31 teams in Nova Scotia have now been, or are in the process of being, created or enhanced. This will bring the total number of collaborative primary health-care teams across the province to 57.
It also helps with ongoing conversations with those who have expressed interest in becoming a collaborative family practice team. Earlier this year, Nova Scotia Health Authority received more than 100 submissions through their expression of interest process, which represents more than 400 family doctors.
Nova Scotians who need a primary care provider should register with Nova Scotia Health Authority's provincial list, by visiting needafamilypractice.nshealth.ca or by calling 811, Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.